A recent nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit endured multiple White House interviews during a two-and-a-half-year period before he was chosen, according to a Senate questionnaire the nominee filled out.
Judge Evan Wallach wrote in response to the questionnaire that he first interviewed with the White House Counsel’s Office for a federal appellate judgeship in January 2009, the same month President Barack Obama was sworn into office. He interviewed with White House lawyers again in July 2009 and July 2010 before the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy picked up the process in February 2011.
Wallach writes that the interviews were for “various circuits.” Last month, Obama nominated him for the Federal Circuit. Since 1995, Wallach has sat on the U.S. Court of International Trade, based in New York.
Wallach credits Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), for whom he once worked, for moving the process along. “I have long been interested in public service at the circuit court level, and Senator Reid has been very supportive of this desire,” he writes. He adds in the questionnaire (PDF) that the White House interviews were, “as far as I know, because of [Reid’s] requests.”
It is common for senators to recommend their current or former counsel for federal judgeships. As the Senate’s highest-ranking Democrat, Reid’s recommendation would likely have particular weight. Another recent appellate nominee, Judge Adalberto Jordan for the 11th Circuit, writes in response to the Senate’s questionnaire (PDF) that former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) gave him guidance on the judicial selection process.
It’s less common for the selection process to take as long as two and a half years. Jordan, a federal district judge, was nominated less than four months after he first contacted the White House.
Wallach has already sat by designation on several federal courts, including the 2nd, 3rd and 9th Circuits. The Federal Circuit, based in Washington, hears appeals from the Court of International Trade. The American Bar Association committee that rates judicial nominees unanimously voted Wallach well-qualified.
Before becoming a judge, he spent two decades as a litigator in Las Vegas, focusing initially on litigation related to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. His practiced turned toward media law, and he represented outlets including the Nevada Press Association and the Las Vegas Review Journal. He served as Reid’s general counsel in the Senate in 1987-88.
Through a court clerk, Wallach today declined to comment. Spokespeople for Reid and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Updated at 3:51 p.m.