The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted today to move ahead with five of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees, including two for the high-profile U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Alison Nathan, a former White House associate counsel to Obama and a pick for the SDNY, drew the most opposition, as the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), questioned whether she has enough experience. Still, Nathan won bipartisan support with a 14-4 vote to move her nomination to the full Senate.
Grassley expressed similar concerns about Susan Hickey, a nominee for the Western District of Arkansas. Hickey was the senior, career law clerk for a federal district judge for seven years before becoming a state judge last year.
“I want to be very clear that I’m not denigrating the career choices of these nominees,” Grassley said of the two. But he said district court nominees should have more litigation experience. “Being appointed a federal judge should be a capstone to a successful career,” he said.
The committee voted 15-3 to move ahead with Hickey’s nomination. (Grassley voted to send both nominees to the full Senate, but said he would review them again before deciding whether to vote to confirm them.)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, defended the two nominees, saying that Nathan’s experience level is similar to that of many George W. Bush appointees and that Hickey has presided over 172 cases as a state judge.
On a voice vote, the committee sent three other nominations to the full Senate: Stephen Higginson, an assistant U.S. attorney in New Orleans, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit; Katherine Forrest, a U.S. Justice Department antitrust official and former Cravath, Swaine & Moore partner, for the Southern District of New York; and Jane Triche-Milazzo, a state judge, for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
The committee delayed a vote on another nominee, former Kansas attorney general Steve Six for the 10th Circuit.
Updated at 11:51 a.m. with additional reporting. An earlier version of this post included vote totals that were not final.