Senate to vote soon on court nominee

The full U.S. Senate is expected to take up the nomination of lesbian attorney Allison Nathan sometime on or before October 11, says a staffer for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Some Republican senators have already expressed opposition to Nathan’s nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma of Oklahoma told the committee in July that Nathan lacks sufficient experience in litigation and sounds like she would be an “activist judge.” He and three other Republicans on the committee voted against sending her nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. The vote was 14 to 4.

The committee’s ranking minority leader, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa voted to advance Nathan’s nomination to the full Senate but said he was doing so only to provide a “second opportunity to fully examine” her qualifications.

Nathan obtained her law degree from Cornell Law School in 2000 and was admitted to the bar of New York in 2003 and the bar of Washington, D.C. in 2004. She served as Associate White House Counsel from January 2009 to July 2010 and as special counsel to the New York State Solicitor General since September 2010. She was also a visiting assistant professor of law at Fordham University Law School from 2006 to 2008.

During Nathan’s confirmation hearing in June, Grassley said the American Bar Association recommends judicial candidates have “at least 12 years’ experience in the practice of law,” as well as “substantial courtroom trial experience.”

But the ABA Committee guidelines also suggest it sees merit in “experience that is similar to in-court trial work—such as appearing before or serving on administrative agencies or arbitration boards, or teaching trial advocacy or other clinical law school courses….” This similar experience, say the ABA guidelines, “may compensate for a prospective nominee’s lack of substantial courtroom experience.”

“In addition,” say the ABA guidelines, “in evaluating a prospective nominee’s professional experience, the Committee may take into consideration whether opportunities for advancement in the profession for women and members of minority groups were limited.”

The majority of ABA members who provide guidance to the Senate concerning nominees characterized Nathan as “qualified,” but a minority said she was “not qualified.”

The question of inexperience was one also raised against federal appeals court nominee Goodwin Liu. Republicans were able to block his nomination so effectively he eventually withdrew his own nomination and now serves on the California Supreme Court.

The Senate is in a “state work period” until October 3.

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