President Barack Obama today re-nominated, as expected, the vast majority of judicial nominees who were not confirmed at the end of 2010. But exactly one previous nominee is not among them: Judge Robert Chatigny for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
The lack of another nomination makes Chatigny the first of Obama’s judicial picks to fail to win confirmation, though others, such as Goodwin Liu for the 9th Circuit, may be filibustered.
Chatigny faced heated Republican opposition because of his involvement, as a federal district judge, in a state capital case. A threat he made about a lawyer’s law license had prompted an ethics inquiry, though a panel of three other federal judges cleared Chatigny.
An assistant who answered the telephone at Chatigny’s chambers in U.S. District Court in Hartford, Conn., read aloud a statement attributed to the judge: “It was an honor to be nominated to the Court of Appeals, and I’m deeply grateful to everyone who supported my nomination.” The assistant said Chatigny had no further comment.
A White House spokesman had no comment.
Chatigny was the only previously nominated choice for a judgeship not to be re-nominated today. Liu’s name was sent back up to the Senate, as were the names of three district court nominees who have faced considerable Republican opposition: Louis Butler Jr., a former state Supreme Court justice, for the Western District of Wisconsin; Edward Chen, a federal magistrate, for the Northern District of California; and Motley Rice partner John McConnell Jr. for the District of Rhode Island.
Republicans have attempted filibusters against some other Obama nominees, including Judge David Hamilton, now on the 7th Circuit, but none has succeeded.
Senate Democrats are focusing anew on the subject of judicial nominees, after spending much of the past two years working on legislation. The Senate has confirmed 60 of Obama’s circuit and district nominees, compared to 100 during President George W. Bush’s first two years and 126 during President Bill Clinton’s.
With the swearing-in today of the 112th Congress, Chatigny lost his most high-profile supporter in the Senate. Democrat Chris Dodd, now a former senator from Connecticut, had recommended Chatigny to the White House, according to Chatigny’s Senate questionnaire.
At his confirmation hearing in April 2010, Chatigny had tried to calm Republican concerns about his involvement in the case of “Roadside Strangler” Michael Ross. He said he was trying his best to ensure Ross’ was mentally competent to be executed, but that he went about the case the wrong way.
“If I had to do it again, I’d certainly do it differently,” Chatigny said then.
Ross was eventually executed, but Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and other GOP senators said that Chatigny’s actions in the case made him unfit for elevation to the 2nd Circuit.
Democratic views on Chatigny may not have been unanimously supportive. In a June 2010 committee vote, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) voted “pass” and indicated she needed more time to consider his nomination.