People For the American Way

Vitter Single-Handedly Deprives Louisianans of Their Day in Court

Louisiana Sen. David Vitter has announced that he will not allow the Senate Judiciary Committee to even consider the nomination of Shelly D. Dick to a judgeship in the Middle District of Louisiana. He has not challenged her qualifications or provided any other substantive reason for his obstruction. Instead, he has cited the fact that there will be a presidential election in five months.

Under the practice of Chairman Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committee will not move forward on a nomination and hold a hearing unless both of the nominee’s home-state senators submit their "blue slips," which signal their approval for allowing the committee to process and consider the nomination. Dick was nominated on April 25, and Sen. Landrieu quickly submitted her blue slip. However, the Baton Rouge Advocate is reporting that Sen. Vitter has chosen to obstruct the nomination.

"By any measure, I’ve bent over backwards to cooperate regarding President Obama’s Louisiana nominees, which has resulted in all 10 before this being confirmed in record time," Vitter stated. "Now that it’s a few months before a presidential election, however, I’m going to let the people speak before supporting any others."

There is some conjecture that Vitter’s unexplained obstruction is political payback for the actions of his Democratic colleague Mary Landrieu to deny a blue to slip to a 2007 George W. Bush nominee – then-U.S. Attorney David Dugas – to the same court. At the time, she cited Dugas’s decision not to intervene in an insurance fraud lawsuit following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In contrast, Vitter has stated plainly that he is blocking President Obama’s nominee not because of any problem with the nominee, but because it is an election year.

Although he now champions the right to obstruct a nominee this way, he demanded a very different standard when it was a president of his own party making the nomination. In February of 2008, he took to the Senate floor and demanded that if the Judiciary Committee did not act on the Dugas nomination, that the full Senate take it out of their hands and vote on the nomination directly.

In the unlikely event that someone were to make a similar motion with regard to Shelly Dick’s nomination, one suspects that Sen. Vitter would be the first to object.


David Vitter, judges, judicial nominations, Lower Federal Courts, Mary Landrieu, Obstruction, Obstructionism, Shelly D. Dick