Updated at 5:08 p.m. to include confirmation
As a lawyer for a prominent Latino civil rights group, Marisa Demeo opposed the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit at the beginning of George W. Bush's presidency. Today, Republicans invoked that conflict in an unsuccessful attempt to oppose Demeo's own judicial nomination.
“She would appear to support only the Latino nominees who agree with her politically,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) in a speech on the Senate floor today.
President Barack Obama nominated Demeo in March 2009 for the D.C. Superior Court, which is Washington’s local trial court. Local D.C. nominees rarely draw much attention, but many Republicans opposed Demeo because of her opposition to Estrada and her other work during seven years as a lawyer and lobbyist for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Despite the opposition, the Senate voted late Tuesday to confirm Demeo. The 66-32 vote fell largely along partisan lines.
Estrada’s nomination lingered for two years in the Senate after Bush nominated him in 2001. Democrats filibustered the nomination, in part because they said they wanted to review privileged records from Estrada’s time in the Solicitor General’s Office. Estrada, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, was also widely viewed as potentially the future first Hispanic nominee for the Supreme Court.
Sessions made it clear that Senate Republicans are still upset over the filibuster and over the opposition from Latino advocates like Demeo. “Being a liberal means never having to say you’re sorry about the things you say about other people,” Sessions said.
In a separate speech, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said Demeo’s opposition to Estrada “sounds like ethnic bullying.” DeMint and Sessions noted that Demeo also opposed Linda Chavez, Bush’s first nominee for secretary of labor; Chavez withdrew after failing to tell the FBI that she had given money to an illegal immigrant.
The two GOP senators criticized Demeo’s statements on policy, too, including what they described as her support for same-sex marriage and her opposition to stepped-up immigration enforcement. Sessions entered into the Senate record several letters from organizations opposing Demeo, including anti-immigration group NumbersUSA and the conservative group Concerned Women for America.
Demeo is currently a D.C. magistrate judge. She’s also worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the District and as a trial attorney in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) spoke in support of Demeo's nomination, though he didn't mention Estrada. "I’m confident that Judge Demeo will exercise sound and wise judgment in ruling in cases before her," he said.
Akaka said that his staff spoke today with D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee Satterfield. "He emphasized how pleased he has been with her performance" as a magistrate, Akaka said. "Judge Satterfield said he could not understand the concerns about Judge Demeo’s impartiality."
Earlier today, senators confirmed on a voice vote the nomination of Justice Department career lawyer Stuart Nash, also to the D.C. Superior Court.