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Public Statements

Small Business Lending Act of 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Madam President, I rise on an important matter that affects all of us, Senators and citizens of our States alike, and that is the shortfall in the process of confirming nominations to the Federal bench. In particular, I wish to talk about one outstanding nominee from my home State of Colorado, William Martinez. Bill has an inspirational story. I will tell you more about it in a minute, but first I wish to explain why there is such an urgency to confirm this fine nominee.

The situation in the Colorado District Court is dire--and I do not use that word easily or casually. There are currently five judges on our court and two vacancies, both of which are rated as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. These five judges have been handling the work of seven judges for nearly 2 years, and it has been over 3 years since our court had a full roster of judges.

But there is more to the story. In 2008, based on the significant caseload in Colorado, the Judicial Conference of the United States recommended that an eighth judgeship be created. So you could argue we are actually three judges down from what we should have.

I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a letter from Chief Judge Wiley Daniel to Leaders Reid and McConnell, explaining the profound impact this vacancy is having on the courts of the District of Colorado.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record,

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Judicial understaffing in Colorado and in the home State of the Presiding Officer and all the Senators has a real effect on residents and businesses. As the caseload increases for each judge, more and more time must be devoted to criminal cases. That is because the Constitution guarantees a speedy trial. But as time and energy shifts to the criminal docket, the civil docket in turn suffers. It continues to become increasingly difficult to schedule a trial as these backups grow longer and longer.

This increased caseload I am referencing also has a huge impact on our rural and tribal communities around the State as well. Our Federal District judges are all located in Denver, but they often have to travel to other parts of the State for hearings or trials. The geography in Colorado makes travel a little more complicated than in some other States. We have a big State with the Rocky Mountains running right through the middle of our State, and I can tell you from my own experience getting around the mountainous areas of Colorado during the snowy winter months is not easy. As a result, all over the State, residents on the Western Slope and down in the valleys, my tribal constituents, they have a more difficult time accessing the Federal judicial system--as plaintiffs, defendants, even as witnesses.

As pressing as this situation is in Colorado, I know it is not unique. Of the nearly 100 current judicial vacancies, 42 are considered judicial emergencies--almost half. I understand our Senate has confirmed only 24 nominees so far this year and 36 total since President Obama was elected. That is a historic low.

I don't wish to turn my comments on these nominations to a partisan affair, but the Senate has not kept up with the pace of past Presidents' judicial nominees.

In fact, last year the Senate confirmed the fewest judges in 50 years--50 years.

Bill Martinez, the man whom I spoke of when I began my remarks, was nominated in February of this year, had a hearing in March, and was referred favorably by the Judiciary Committee in April. Today, his nomination has been sitting on the Senate Executive Calendar--on that calendar--for 105 days. Here is the question: Can we set aside our partisanship and support the people who need our system of justice and those who work in our system of justice? The people of Colorado want us to vote on Bill Martinez and help us reduce the workload on the Federal District Court of Colorado.

Senator Bennet has joined me, and I know he is going to speak in a few minutes.

Last year, we convened a bipartisan advisory committee so that we could have the best candidates put forward. It was ably chaired by Denver lawyer Hal Haddon, a well-known figure, and former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Kourlis. The committee interviewed numerous candidates, and based on his life experience, his record of legal service, and his impressive abilities, we both recommended, on the advice of the committee, Bill Martinez for a Federal judgeship.

I know I was very impressed with Bill. In addition to being an accomplished attorney and a true role model in his community, Bill has a personal story which captures what is great about America and highlights what can be accomplished when you have focus, discipline, and you work hard.

Bill was born in Mexico City and lawfully immigrated to the United States as a child. He worked his way through school and college and toward a career in the law. He received undergraduate degrees in environmental engineering and political science from the University of Illinois and earned a law degree from the University of Chicago. As a lawyer, he is an expert in employment and civil rights law. He currently practices in those areas. He previously served as the regional attorney for the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission in Denver.

I believe--as we all do, I think--in strong, well-balanced courts that serve the needs of our citizens. Bill Martinez brings that sense of balance because of his broad legal background, professionalism, and outstanding intellect. I am pleased to have been able to recommend Bill, and I am certain that once he is confirmed, he will make an outstanding judge.

I was going to ask for unanimous consent that we move to consider Mr.
Martinez's nomination. I am going to hold back on that request for the time being, but I want those who watch the Chamber to know that a group of us who are going to speak to this backlog are going to ask, at the appropriate time, for that to be considered.

Whatever happens today in these unanimous consent requests--and I would hope they would be granted--I am not going to give up. I am going to continue to work with people on both sides of the aisle, as well as any Senator who might have reason to block Bill Martinez's nomination, to find a reasonable solution so we can fully stock our courts and we can deliver justice and services to our citizens, who deserve courts that are up and running fully.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, I believe over the last hour and a half the Senate has heard from almost one-tenth of the body. Nine Senators have come to the floor to talk about a litany of great nominees for district court positions all over our country. The viewers have heard and our colleagues have heard the importance of passing these nominees through the process so we can deliver justice to our citizens in all the ways that our courts operate. In that spirit, therefore, I have a series of unanimous consent requests that I wish to make at this time.

UNANIMOUS-CONSENT REQUESTS--EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

Mr. President, as in executive session, I ask unanimous consent that at a time to be determined by the majority leader, following consultation with the Republican leader, the Senate proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination on the Executive Calendar: Calendar No. 813, William Martinez, to be a U.S. district court judge for the district of Colorado; that the nomination be debated for up to 3 hours with time equally divided and controlled between Senators Leahy and Sessions or their designees; that upon the use or yielding back of time, the Senate proceed to a vote on the confirmation of the nomination; that upon confirmation, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, the President be immediately notified of the Senate's action, and the Senate resume legislative session.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. SESSIONS. Reserving the right to object, and I will object, I wish to express a few thoughts before my colleagues who are here and who wish to speak on another subject. I wish to be heard on the nomination process and maybe I can be recognized after I make that objection. Hoping to be so recognized, I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, it is disappointing that we can't get unanimous consent for an up-or-down vote on the Martinez vote. I wish to make clear to all the Coloradans who watched the proceedings today that I attempted to bring up this nomination for a vote, along with my colleague, Senator Bennet, but the minority party, as you have heard, has objected. It is a shame. I will not give up. I will continue to work in every way possible with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to confirm this important and impressive list of nominees.

I shared Bill Martinez's story earlier with the full Senate. It is a quintessential American story, and Bill Martinez deserves to serve on our district court in Colorado.

Mr. President, let me move to this unanimous consent request: I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to executive session to consider en bloc the following nominations on the Executive Calendar: No. 656, Albert Diaz, U.S. circuit judge for the Fourth Circuit, and No. 657, James Wynn, to be a U.S. circuit judge for the Fourth Circuit; that the nominations be confirmed en bloc, and the motions to reconsider be laid upon the table en bloc; that upon confirmation, the President be immediately notified of the Senate's action, and the Senate then resume legislation.

Before the Chair rules, let me indicate that the Diaz nomination was reported on a 19-to-0 vote. The Wynn nomination was reported with a vote of 18 to 1.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. SESSIONS. I do object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to executive session to consider en bloc the following nominations on the Executive Calendar:

No. 696, Louis Butler, to be a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin; No. 697, Edward Chen, to be a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California; No. 703, Benita Pearson, to be a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio; No. 948, John J. McConnell, to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Rhode Island; that the nominations be debated concurrently for a total of 4 hours, with the time equally divided and controlled between Senators Leahy and Sessions or their designees; that upon the use or yielding back of time, the Senate then proceed to vote on confirmation of the nominations in the order listed; that upon confirmation, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, the President be immediately notified of the Senate's action, and the Senate then resume legislative session.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. SESSION. Objection.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, I will continue to ask my friend from Alabama to consider joining with me in approving these unanimous consent requests.

I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to executive session and consider en bloc the following nominations on the Executive Calendar:

No. 883, Michelle Childs, to be a U.S. District Judge, South Carolina; No. 884, Richard Gergel, to be a U.S. District Judge, South Carolina; No. 885, Catherine Eagles, to be a U.S. District Judge, Middle District of North Carolina; No. 886, Kimberly Mueller, Eastern District of California; No. 893, Leonard Stark, to be a U.S. District Judge, District of Delaware; No. 917, John Gibney, to be a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia; No. 935, James Bredar, to be a U.S. District Judge, District of Maryland; No. 936, Ellen Hollander, to be a U.S. District Judge, District of Maryland; No. 937, Susan Nelson, to be a U.S. District Judge, District of Minnesota; that the nominations be confirmed en bloc and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table en bloc; that the President be immediately notified of the Senate's action, and the Senate then resume legislative session.

Before the Chair entertains the request, let me indicate that all of the above nominees were reported unanimously or on a voice vote in the Judiciary Committee.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. SESSIONS. I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, I listened intently to my friend from Alabama. I have had the opportunity when I have presided to listen to him share his point of view with the Senate. As always, he is articulate and passionate.

Before I make two unanimous consent requests, I wish to make some brief remarks. I see a number of colleagues on the Senate floor.

I heard the comments about the time in which the Judiciary Committee is considering these nominees. And there are numbers and there are numbers, but the number that stands out to me, as I mentioned earlier, is we have 100 judicial vacancies, which the Senator from Alabama acknowledged. Forty-two of those are considered judicial emergencies by the bodies that oversee and monitor the judiciary. The Senate has confirmed 24 nominees so far this year and 36 total since President Obama was elected. Those are historic lows. That is the fewest number of judges confirmed in 50 years. We may have accelerated the process by which nominees are considered, but we have not accelerated the process by which they are confirmed so they can serve on a circuit court or a district court.

The Senator talked about a nominee who was in limbo for 8 years, and I heard the passion with which he thinks that was a wrong. But two wrongs do not make a right. We need to get our courts fully staffed with jurists who want to serve.

I heard piety mentioned. The eight of my colleagues who came to talk about filling the district and circuit courts--I did not hear a lot of piety; I heard a need and a desire to fill the courts so citizens' rights can be maintained and justice can be delivered, whether it is in criminal or civil settings.

Finally, with all due respect to my friend from Alabama, I will wait until we hopefully have a debate on the floor about Bill Martinez to tell all the 99 Senators what a marvelous candidate he is and what a strong member of the bench he would be. We will set that debate aside until I hope, I say to Senator Sessions, we actually can discuss the Bill Martinez confirmation on the floor.

UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUESTS--EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

In that spirit, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to executive session to consider en bloc the following nominations on the Executive Calendar: No. 891, Goodwin Liu, to be a U.S. circuit judge for the Ninth Circuit; and No. 933, Robert Chatigny, to be a U.S. circuit judge for the Second Circuit. I ask unanimous consent that those nominations be debated concurrently for a total of 4 hours, with the time equally divided and controlled between Senators Leahy and Sessions or their designees; that upon use or yielding back of time, the Senate then proceed to vote on the confirmation of the nominations in the order listed; that upon confirmation, the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, the President be immediately notified of the Senate's action, and the Senate resume legislative session.

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. The concerns of the Senator from Alabama are his, and they are most likely shared by others. The point I am trying to make is, let's bring nominees to the floor, have that debate, fully consider their records, and then have an up-or-down vote.

Mr. President, moving to my last unanimous consent request, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to executive session to consider en bloc the following nominations on the Executive Calendar: No. 892, Raymond Lohier, to be U.S. circuit judge for the Second Circuit of New York; and No. 934, Scott Matheson, to be U.S. circuit judge for the Tenth Circuit; that the nominations be debated concurrently for a total of 4 hours, with the time equally divided and controlled between Senators Leahy and Sessions or their designees; that upon the use or yielding back of time, the Senate then proceed to vote on confirmation of the nominations in the order listed; that upon confirmation, the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, the President be immediately notified of the Senate's action, and the Senate then resume legislative session.

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