The White House yesterday sent to the Senate its nomination of Michael O'Neill to fill the vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia created by the retirement of Gladys Kessler. She assumed senior status in January 2007.
O'Neill is a familiar figure on Capitol Hill and in D.C. legal circles. He was chief counsel and staff director of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2005 to 2007 under Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and helped shepherd through the successful nominations of John Roberts Jr. and Samuel Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court, and Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey as attorneys general. Before that, he was a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission for six years. He clerked for Judge David Sentelle on the D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In between government gigs, he has taught at George Mason University School of Law.
"Michael will be a superior addition to the federal bench," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. in a statement following the nomination. "He possesses a virtually encyclopedic knowledge of the law, especially constitutional law. He ably managed one of the most important and busiest Committees in the Senate as we tackled the leading issues of the day, and demonstrated unfailing fairness to both sides of the aisle."
Late-session nominations like O'Neill's have a slim-to-none chance of making it through the nomination process especially in a presidential election year, but his ties to Specter probably give him a better slim chance than others.