Public Defender Service attorneys Corinne Beckwith and Catharine Easterly appeared before a Senate committee Friday morning to testify on their nominations to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
The two appeared before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which considers judicial appointees to local Washington courts. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) ran the hearing alone.
Beckwith and Easterly are President Barack Obama’s nominees to replace two associate judge positions vacated by retired judges Inez Reid and Noël Kramer.
Beckwith was Obama’s first nominee to the appeals court. An appellate lawyer with the Public Defender Service since 1999 and supervisor of the appellate division since 2009, Beckwith told the committee that the D.C. Court of Appeals is the “court where I learned so much about what I know about the law and good lawyering.”
Easterly has been with the Public Defender Service since 2003, and serves in the Special Litigation Section. She said that she became an attorney “to do public service,” and that she would be able to transition from advocate to impartial judge because both positions deal with ensure the law is fairly applied.
During the 30-minute hearing, Akaka asked both nominees how they would handle the court’s heavy docket. Judges have come under scrutiny in the past for their slow pace in producing opinions.
Beckwith said that the notoriously busy schedule of a public defender has made her comfortable “producing quality work under pressure.” Beckwith said she wasn’t sure yet what her management style would be, but added that she would consult with other judges on how they organize their chambers.
Easterly said she expected that managing the workload would be one of the most challenging parts of the job. Like Beckwith, Easterly said her time in the public defender’s office has taught her how to “triage” case work.
Public Defender Service Director Avis Buchanan and other staff from the office were in attendance, as was U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who chairs the District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission.
Paul Strauss, the shadow senator for the District, also came to the hearing and entered a statement on the record in support of both nominees. But he also used the opportunity to make a pitch for D.C. voting rights, noting that no one elected by local residents could vote on judicial nominees to the city’s highest court.