At its business meeting this morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nominations of Albert Diaz and James A. Wynn Jr., two North Carolina judges up for seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.
Diaz was approved unanimously, 19-0, while Wynn garnered one no vote, passing out 18-1. The bipartisan support in committee bodes well for their confirmation votes by the full senate, where candidates who were non-controversial in committee tend to be confirmed by wide margins.
But when will the senate take action? I put that question to University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias, an expert on the judicial confirmation process.
“That’s not easy to answer,” he said. “The last person confirmed for an appellate court had to wait four months.”
The confirmation pipeline, if I can call it that, does seem to have quite a bit of lag time built into it. The circuit court judges who have been confirmed during the Obama administration have all had substantial waits after passing out of committee:
Tobias puts the blame for the delays pretty squarely in the lap of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
In the old days, and even in the Bush years, the idea was if there was a package of non-controversial nominees, they would bundle them together and send them to the senate floor. But those days are behind us.
Each and every one has to have individual scheduling, and I think the real problem is Sen. McConnell, because he’s not entering into these agreements [to allow floor votes] except one at a time, and even then not very quickly.
So Wynn and Diaz have to get in line, apparently. There are already six appellate nominees, including Virginia Supreme Court Justice Barbara Milano Keenan, another nominee to the 4th Circuit, in front of them: Joseph A. Greenaway Jr. to the 3rd Circuit (who’s been waiting since Oct. 1); Keenan (Oct. 29); Jane B. Stranch, 6th Circuit (Nov. 19); Thomas Vaneskie, 3rd Circuit (Dec. 3); Denny Chin, 2nd Circuit (Dec. 10); and O. Rogeriee Thompson, 1st Circuit (Jan. 21).