Bench Memos

“Noncontroversial” Nominees

The Senate today confirmed two district-judge nominees, Benita Pearson (Northern District of Ohio) and William Martinez (District of Colorado), in the face of strong Republican opposition.

Pearson was confirmed by a 56-39 vote. All Republicans except her home-state senator George Voinovich (and three Republicans who didn’t vote) voted against her. Even Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins voted against her. In fact, even one Democrat—Ben Nelson of Nebraska—voted against her.

Martinez was confirmed by a 58-37 vote. Only two Republicans, Scott Brown and Susan Collins, voted for Martinez.

These votes illustrate two things. First, contrary to what the media has been reporting, the Republicans have agreed to allow votes on judicial nominees whom they regard as controversial. Second, Republican opposition in the next Congress to the likes of Ninth Circuit nominee Goodwin Liu—if President Obama makes the mistake of renominating him—will be much more vigorous. Democrats who support Liu risk paying a high price, and Ben Nelson and some other Democrats may well decide to join forces with Republicans to defeat (or prevent) a Liu renomination.


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