In their first act of 2010, senators voted unanimously today to elevate U.S. District Judge Beverly Martin to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
The vote of 97-0 gives President Barack Obama his fourth confirmed circuit judge, but not as soon as Democrats would have liked. Obama nominated Martin in June, and she’s been awaiting a confirmation vote since the Senate Judiciary Committee gave its backing in September.
Martin’s nomination has not been controversial. A judge in the Northern District of Georgia since 2000, she received a unanimous rating of well-qualified from the American Bar Association’s judiciary committee. Both of her state’s Republican senators supported her, with Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) calling her “a good friend, a very fine jurist.”
But her nomination was held up as Republicans objected to holding a vote and Democrats used their floor time to debate health care. Five other circuit nominees are in the same position. “None of the judicial nominations currently pending on the [Senate] calendar are controversial,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said today.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, said GOP senators would have agreed to confirm Martin sooner in exchange for delaying nominees who were more controversial, such as Judge David Hamilton for the 7th Circuit. Democrats declined, pushing Hamilton to confirmation in November, and there hasn’t been a circuit confirmation since.
“Republicans have been… willing to proceed to a roll call vote on her nomination for months,” Sessions said. “But for whatever reason, the leadership would not take ‘yes’ for an answer.”
Martin is a fourth-generation lawyer from Macon, Ga. She was the United State attorney for the Middle District of Georgia from 1998 to 2000 and previously as an assistant U.S. attorney and assistant state attorney general.