A magistrate and civil lawyer have been nominated to become district court judges for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, where the two bench positions have been declared judicial emergencies and have been open for more than two years.
President Barack Obama sent the names of Matthew Brann and Malachy Mannion to the Senate on Thursday to fill vacancies created when District Judge Richard Caputo took senior status in March 2009, and District Judge Thomas Vanaskie was elevated to Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in April 2010.
Brann has been a partner at the law firm of Brann, Williams, Caldwell & Sheetz since 1995, where he concentrates his practice on torts, contracts, and commercial and real property litigation. Mannion, a former assistant U.S. attorney, has been a magistrate for the Middle District of Pennsylvania since 2001.
The Middle District of Pennsylvania was featured in a May 14 article in The National Law Journal about Obama’s relatively slow rate of making nominations to fill the historically high number of judicial vacancies across the country.
Chief Judge Yvette Kane said she spent May 7 driving more than 80 miles to the district's courthouse in Williamsport for a one-hour hearing in a death penalty case.
Williamsport has many U.S. attorneys and federal agents who interact with the court, Kane said, and recently there has been a spike in contract and illegal immigration cases. But there has been no judge in the courthouse since July, when 96-year-old Senior Judge Malcolm Muir had a stroke while working in his chambers and died a few days later.
The judges now take turns traveling there during the week, preventing them from addressing summary judgment requests or holding hearings on their own cases.