Grassley puts gay district court nominee’s vote on hold

The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday morning asked that the nomination of openly gay attorney Paul Oetken and three other federal district court nominees be held over indefinitely.

U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) offered no explanation for the request. Such requests, that committee votes on federal court nominees be postponed, has become a routine occurrence at Senate Judiciary Committee meetings. Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has routinely granted the requests.

In addition to Oetken, Grassley requested postponements for Paul Engelmayer, who—like Oetken—is nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan). On paper and during his confirmation hearing, Engelmayer was questioned by the committee about his support, as a pro bono attorney, for same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses in New York. Engelmayer said he understands the difference between being an advocate and being a judge.

Grassley also asked that the long-standing nomination of law professor Goodwin Liu to join the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals bench be held one more week. Grassley said the additional week would make it less likely Liu’s nomination would face a filibuster on the floor of the Senate. Liu has been grilled repeatedly about his writing in support of marriage equality.

Liu is the longest standing nomination among 10 appeals court nominations which are still pending before the committee. The second longest standing is that of openly gay nominee Edward DuMont. DuMont was nominated to the Federal Circuit appeals court bench in April 2010. He has not yet received a confirmation hearing.

The Committee voted to recommend only one appeals court nominee thus far this session. And on March 31, it advanced only four of the 50 pending district court nominees.

Despite the delays, once the full Senate voted this year on 14 court nominees, not one senator has voted against a nominee.

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