One of President Barack Obama's nominees for an appellate judgeship has been waiting 10 months for a confirmation hearing, an unusual length of time given that the president's party has control of the U.S. Senate.
Edward DuMont was nominated April 14, 2010, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. No hearing has been scheduled, though another pick for the same court, Jimmie Reyna, was nominated five months later, on Sept. 29, and is set to have his hearing on Wednesday.
DuMont is a partner in the Supreme Court and appellate practice at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. He’s also the first openly gay nominee for a federal appeals court in U.S. history.
The reason for the delay in the process is not publicly known. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has authority to schedule hearings as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. An aide said he has not done so in DuMont’s case because of a Republican request for more time to review paperwork and because Leahy wants to proceed with nominations in consultation with Republicans. (Leahy’s office gave a similar explanation last month to Washington’s Metro Weekly newspaper.)
A spokeswoman for committee Republicans confirmed they want more time, but she declined to offer details. “There is a process the committee goes through for every nominee, and the process is not yet complete for Mr. DuMont,” the spokeswoman, Beth Levine, wrote in an e-mail.
Delays for judicial nominees are common, but the delay for DuMont is unusual. During the Obama administration, with Democrats controlling the Senate, most nominees have swiftly received hearings only to face a drawn-out process in the full Senate. During the George W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, nominees were sometimes denied confirmation hearings when the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee was from the opposite party.
Former solicitor general Seth Waxman, who is head of Wilmer’s Supreme Court and appellate practice, said he’s “completely mystified” by the delay.
“It would be very difficult for me to understand what basis anyone would have for objecting to this nomination,” Waxman said. “I don’t know of anybody who has expressed any public — forget opposition, I don’t know that anybody has, to my knowledge, raised any questions about his qualifications for this court.”
DuMont has worked in Wilmer’s Washington office since 2002. As an assistant to the U.S. solicitor general from 1997 to 2001, he argued 18 cases before the Supreme Court. He’s a former clerk to Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit, and he has a unanimous “well-qualified” rating from the American Bar Association’s committee on the federal judiciary.
In September, a bipartisan group of five former solicitors general, including Waxman, as well as former acting solicitor general Walter Dellinger III, signed a letter urging DuMont’s confirmation.
White House spokesman Reid Cherlin wrote in an e-mail that DuMont is a “stellar lawyer” who has won many accolades. “We look forward to the Committee taking up a hearing soon,” Cherlin wrote. In an e-mail, DuMont declined to comment.
Updated at 1:39 p.m. to include previous coverage.