For Immediate Release
October 3, 2011
Respect for the Confirmation Process, Judge Roll's Seat Filled, Other Judicial Nominees Clear Senate
Grassley Prepared Floor Statement
Today, the Senate will confirm six more of President Obama’s judicial nominees. Four of these vacancies have been deemed to be judicial emergencies. With these votes, we will have confirmed over 44 percent of the judicial nominees submitted by President Obama during this Congress, and 66 percent of all his judicial nominees.
As I have stated, the confirmation of executive and judicial appointments is one of the highest responsibilities of the Senate. It is a duty I take seriously. It is not, as some have suggested, a pro forma process. We are not here to merely rubberstamp the President’s nominees. Sometimes that process takes a little time. It is the Senate’s right and duty to review thoroughly the record, qualifications, and temperament of nominees. Above all, the process is to be treated with respect and with dignity. This is important for the nominees, for the Senate, and for public confidence in our Constitutional process.
So I was disturbed to read recent news reports regarding what was described as an induction ceremony in the Northern District of California for Judge Edward Chen. I believe, at this event, Judge Chen showed disrespect to the Senate and to the confirmation process. I regret that I would have to spend any time on this, and take away from the confirmation of the pending nominees, but there are important points that need to be addressed to protect our process and our members.
The Senate confirmed Judge Chen last May by a 52-46 vote. Needless to say, he was not a consensus nominee. Among the concerns about this nomination was Judge Chen’s judicial philosophy, his willingness to adopt the “empathy standard,” and concern that he would not set aside his personal views – largely shaped by his long association with the ACLU. Remarks reportedly made at this recent event indicate our concerns were valid.
I have not seen a transcript of the event, but an article entitled “Chen Toasted, Republicans Roasted” makes this look like more a political rally rather than a judicial event. Chief Judge Ware, in commenting on Judge Chen’s confirmation quipped, “It made me wonder if Judge Chen should be running for political office.” That is what many of us thought was more appropriate for Judge Chen, rather than appointment as a federal judge. The news article describes remarks made by Judge Chen, which I can only describe as mocking one of our members, Senator Sessions. This is distasteful, if not ironic. It was only after a personal appeal by Senator Feinstein to Senator Sessions that the vote on Judge Chen went forward. Senator Sessions agreed to that vote and pressed other Members to let the vote proceed. If the press accounts are accurate, I believe Judge Chen owes an apology to Senator Sessions.
Judge Chen went on to again embrace his ACLU background, stating “having the ACLU in your DNA is not a disease, it’s an honor.” As I have said before, Judge Chen’s advocacy on behalf of the ACLU is not disqualifying, by itself. But I have to wonder about the impartiality of Judge Chen. More importantly, what are potential litigants appearing before Judge Chen to think. If the ACLU is an opposing litigant, is there any way to think Judge Chen can be fair and impartial. I would think mandatory recusal would be required in any ACLU case coming before him.
Federal judges must abide by the Code of Conduct for United States Judges. I will withhold judgment on whether or not Judge Chen violated those Canons, but in my opinion he clearly went too far - particularly with regard to the requirement to uphold the integrity of the judiciary, to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities, and to refrain from political activity. I hope Judge Chen realizes the important responsibility he has and acts accordingly in the future. I also hope this is a lesson to other nominees – that they treat this process with respect, even after confirmation and appointment.
Mr. President, I have been working throughout this Congress to confirm consensus nominees. I continue to remind my colleagues of the progress we have made. With a hearing in the Judiciary Committee scheduled for tomorrow, 85 percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees will have received a hearing. At this point in President Bush’s presidency, only 77 percent had been afforded a hearing.
Not only have we processed a higher percentage of nominees, but we’ve done it in shorter times. President Obama’s circuit court nominees have only had to wait, on average, 66 days for a hearing. President Bush’s circuit court nominees were forced to wait 247 days. In fact, we will be hearing from a Fourth Circuit nominee tomorrow after only 26 days in committee. None of President Bush’s circuit court nominees were afforded a hearing that quickly. President Bush’s Fourth Circuit nominees were particularly treated in a harsh manner. My friends on the other side of the aisle allowed four qualified and consensus nominees to languish at a time when the Fourth Circuit was one-quarter vacant.
President Obama’s district court nominees have also received better treatment. On average, they have only waited 79 days for a hearing. President Bush’s district court nominees waited 247 days. These nominees are also being reported out of committee at a quicker pace as well. On average, President Obama’s circuit and district court nominees have been reported more than 66 days faster than President Bush’s.
All in all, we have taken positive action on 85 percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees this Congress. Even though I am proud of this progress, I must note, I will continue to focus on quality confirmed over quantity confirmed.
Shortly, we will be voting on Henry Floyd, who is nominated to the appeals court for the Fourth Circuit. This is President Obama’s fifth nominee to be confirmed to the Fourth Circuit alone. President Bush’s nominee to the Fourth Circuit from South Carolina, Steve Matthews, did not receive the same treatment. In fact, he went 484 days without so much as hearing, let alone an up or down vote. Not only was he blocked from being considered. I would note the seat to which he was nominated was subsequently filled by a nominee from North Carolina, rather than South Carolina where the vacancy arose.
Another vacancy we will be voting on tonight is the District of Arizona seat held by the late Judge Roll before his tragic and untimely death on January 8, 2011. The entire judicial community felt this great loss. After Judge Roll’s murder, I repeatedly implored the administration to focus on filling this seat as quickly as possible. It was deemed to be a judicial emergency instantly. However, it took over 5 months for the administration to nominate Judge Jennifer Guerin Zipps to the seat, even though she was a sitting Magistrate Judge. Since the President took his time in submitting a nomination, I felt it appropriate to work with the Chairman to move this nomination through in an expeditious manner. Nominated in late June of this year, Judge Zipps received her hearing a mere 34 days later. Judge Zipps was reported to the floor shortly after we returned from the August recess and I am happy we have continued this fast pace and are confirming her to a lifetime position today.
In addition to Judge Floyd and Judge Zipps, we will confirm Nannette Jolivette Brown to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana; Nancy Torresen to be United States District Judge for the District of Maine; William Francis Kuntz to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York; and Marina Garcia Marmolejo to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas.
I am pleased to support each of these nominees. I thank them for their public service and congratulate them on their prior accomplishments and confirmation today.
I would like to say a few words about each of the nominees.
Henry F. Floyd, is nominated to be a Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit. This seat has been deemed to be a judicial emergency. Mr. Floyd is currently a United States District Court Judge for the District of South Carolina. He was nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2003, and has sat by designation on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit several times.
Prior to joining the bench, Judge Floyd was elected by the South Carolina General Assembly to serve as a Circuit Court Judge for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in 1992.
He began his legal career in private practice, first as a solo practitioner and eventually forming the law firm of Floyd & Welmaker, which then merged with Acker & Acker. He focused on civil, criminal and domestic litigation as well as trust and commercial law. He also served as an attorney for Pickens County while maintaining his full-time law partnership. Judge Floyd is a graduate from Wofford College and received a Juris Doctorate from the University of South Carolina. It was during his second year of law school when Judge Floyd was elected to the South Carolina House of Representative, serving three terms until 1978.
The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has rated Judge Floyd with a unanimous “Well Qualified” rating.
Nannette Jolivette Brown is nominated to the Eastern District of Louisiana. Ms. Brown currently serves as City Attorney for the City of New Orleans, where she represents the City as its chief legal officer. Prior to that, Ms. Brown was in private practice, working on real estate, environmental, personal injury, insurance, commercial and business law. She taught a number of courses at Southern University Law Center, and was a clinical professor at Loyola University.
From 1994 to 1996, Ms. Brown served as the Director of Sanitation for New Orleans. She was also a teaching fellow at Tulane Law School. Ms. Brown is a graduate from the University of Southwestern Louisiana and received her J.D. and L.L.M from Tulane Law School.
The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has rated Ms. Brown with a unanimous “Qualified” rating.
Nancy Torresen is nominated to be United States District Judge for the District of Maine. Since 2001, Ms. Torresen has served in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Maine. She has investigated and prosecuted federal crimes in the northern half of the District.
From 1994 to 2001, the Department of Justice detailed Ms. Torresen to the Maine Department of the Attorney General Criminal Division in the Appellate Section. In this position, Ms. Torresen represented the state of Maine in appeals of serious violent crime convictions.
From 1990 to 1994, Ms. Torresen served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maine. She represented a variety of federal agencies in litigation involving medical malpractice, employment and discrimination cases.
She began her legal career as a law clerk with the Honorable Conrad K. Cyr, of the United States District Court for the District of Maine. In 1988, she joined Williams and Connolly as an Associate, working on medical malpractice, libel, and contract disputes. Ms. Torresen is a graduate from Hope College with a B.A. and from the University of Michigan School Of Law with a Juris Doctorate.
The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has unanimously rated Ms. Torresen as “Well Qualified.”
William Francis Kuntz, II, is nominated to the Eastern District of New York. This seat also has been deemed to be a judicial emergency. Since 1986, he has been a partner with a number of private law firms. While he has focused his practice on commercial litigation, he has represented financial services institutions, and large industrial entities.
From 1987 through 2010, Mr. Kuntz was appointed by Mayors Koch, Dinkins, Giuliani and Bloomberg, and confirmed by the New York City Council, to serve on the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board. As a Commissioner, he has reviewed thousands of complaints filed by citizens against New York City police officers. Mr. Kuntz has taught courses in American Legal History at Brooklyn Law School.
Mr. Kuntz received his Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Arts, a Juris Doctorate, and a Ph.D from Harvard University.
The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has unanimously rated Mr. Kuntz as “Well Qualified.”
Marina Garcia Marmolejo, is nominated to the Southern District of Texas. This is another judicial emergency seat. Ms. Marmolejo is currently a partner with Reid Davis LLP., where she has been focusing on complex commercial cases. Prior to this, she served as Of Counsel for two firms, working on complex federal and state criminal defense matters, public corruption matters, criminal tax fraud, health care fraud, and mortgage fraud.
In 1999, Ms. Marmolejo worked briefly for the law offices of Jesus M. Dominguez before becoming an Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. As an AUSA, Ms. Marmolejo was assigned to the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force where she handled narcotics cases and money laundering investigations.
After graduating from law school, Ms. Marmolejo joined the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Western District of Texas as an Assistant Public Defender where she remained until 1998. She then moved to the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Southern District of Texas where she again served as an Assistant Public Defender until 1999.
Ms. Marmolejo is a graduate of the University of Incarnate Word and received her Master of Arts from St. Mary’s University Graduate School, and her Juris Doctorate, cum laude, from St. Mary’s School of Law.
The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has rated Ms. Marmolejo unanimously “Qualified.”
Jennifer Guerin Zipps, nominated to be United States District Judge for the District of Arizona. As I mentioned, this seat has been deemed to be a judicial emergency. Judge Zipps has served as a United States Magistrate Judge since 2005. Prior to her serving on the bench, Judge Zipps served as an Assistant United States Attorney. While in that role, Judge Zipps was promoted to Chief of the Civil Division. She also has private practice experience, serving as an Associate in the firm of Molloy, Jones & Donahue. She began her legal career as a clerk for Judge William C. Canby of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Judge Zipps is a graduate of the University of Arizona and received her Juris Doctorate from Georgetown Law. The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has rated Judge Zipps unanimously “Well Qualified.”