PFAW: Colorado Judicial Nomination Shows How Process Should Work

Washington, DC – At a time when there is a record vacancy crisis in the federal courts, Colorado senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet have done something unusual: they have expedited the judicial nomination process so that a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado will transfer hands without a long period of vacancy. If the Senate confirms him promptly, Raymond P. Moore will take the place of Judge Wiley Daniel soon after his seat becomes vacant in January.

People For the American Way praised Sens. Udall and Bennet for their attention to helping the president nominate a qualified jurist for the federal district court in Colorado. “Federal courts across the country are struggling to meet the needs of the American people. In many cases, it is because Senate Republicans are obstructing President Obama’s nominees. But too often, it is simply because senators are dragging their feet in recommending nominees to the president,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “Senators Udall and Bennet have shown how the process can be swift and efficient.”

Federal judges often announce planned departures from the bench many months in advance so that the process for nominating and confirming a replacement can begin early, thus minimizing the amount of time that a seat is vacant. Then, for district courts in particular, the White House seeks recommendations of potential nominees from the state’s senators. In too many states, delay on the part of senators means a significantly delayed nomination, leaving courtroom vacancies unfilled. As a result, most future vacancies become current vacancies with no replacement nominated.

That is not what happened in Colorado. Last winter, district court Judge Wiley Daniel announced that he would be taking senior status beginning in January 2013. Sens. Udall and Bennet promptly put together an 11-member bipartisan advisory commission to help identify highly qualified candidates for the vacancy, which accepted applications during the spring and submitted its recommendations to the senators. The senators then forwarded the finalists to the White House, which conducted its own review, leading to the president’s nomination yesterday of Raymond P. Moore, a longtime federal public defender. 

Yesterday, the wheels have been set in motion for the Senate to begin its consideration of the nomination, before the vacancy even opens up.

“The process that Senators Udall and Bennet set in motion to nominate Moore should not be unusual,” added Baker. “Instead, it should be a model for senators across the country. It is a testament to the commitment of Sens. Bennet and Udall to making sure that no Coloradan is denied their day in court, one that I hope many of their colleagues will emulate.”

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