Bench Memos

Senator Leahy’s April Fool’s Stunt

In order to rush through President Obama’s nomination of David F. Hamilton to the Seventh Circuit, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy is trying to set Hamilton’s confirmation hearing for next Wednesday, April 1. 

Obama nominated Hamilton one week ago today.  Hamilton did not submit his Senate questionnaire response until after 8:30 p.m. on March 18, and he’s supplemented the questionnaire materials on several occasions, including yesterday, and yet another supplement is expected today.  So the hearing that Leahy is trying to schedule would be barely two weeks from Hamilton’s nomination and barely a week (if there are no more supplements after today) from Hamilton’s complete submission of his hearings materials.

Hamilton has been a federal district judge for nearly 15 years and has authored more than 1200 opinions.  He has also submitted approximately 2,000 pages of speeches and articles.

To put this rush in context:  During the Bush 43 administration, the average time from nomination to hearing for federal appellate nominees was 166 days overall, and 197 days while Leahy was chairman.  No federal appellate nominee other than Clinton renominee Helene White (the beneficiary of a special deal) received a hearing in less than 30 days.  And of President Bush’s first batch of nominees, the first to receive a hearing waited 62 days.

The seat to which Hamilton has been nominated has not been designated a judicial emergency, and the vacancy has existed only since September 30, 2008.

What’s the rush?  Might Leahy be trying to impair Republicans’ ability to demonstrate that Hamilton is not the “moderate” the Obama administration claims him to be?

(I have relied on a Senate source for most of the above information.)

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