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Mr. BROWN of Ohio. Mr. President, I wish to continue to emphasize the remarks Senator Lautenberg made. I have not been here that long, but what I have seen happen in the last 2 or 3 years where judges appointed by the President of the United States are slow-walked or just ignored or blocked in this body is just outrageous.
In 2007, during my first month in office, I was presented with a Republican judge, coming from a Republican President, approved by my predecessor, Senator DeWine, and my colleague, Senator Voinovich. I met with her, talked with her, and I sent my approval to the Judiciary Committee. She was confirmed in the second or third month I was here, because I believe the President of the United States should have the right to choose judges as long as they are qualified. That is why I ask that we move forward on these judicial nominations.
In June 2010 U.S. district judge James Carr took senior status, creating a vacancy in the Northern District Court in Toledo, OH. That means that Ohioans seeking criminal or civil justice have to wait, which creates a backlog of too many cases. That is what we have seen happen.
In 2007 Senator Voinovich, a Republican, and I assembled a commission of distinguished Ohio lawyers to find the best candidate for the job. It wasn't in 2007; it was later than that. In 2009 there was a President from a different party, so we updated the commission. This commission, appointed by Senator Voinovich and myself, consisted of legal professionals from the Southern District of the State to
suggest nominations for the vacant judgeships for the Northern District of the State. We did the reverse, with lawyers from the north choosing for the Southern District, to make sure there was not a conflict of interest. This commission was very bipartisan. One of them had a Republican majority, one of them had a Democratic majority.
Following Judge Carr's retirement, the commission made a selection. I interviewed three nominees, sent those names to the President, and then the President nominated Jeffery Helmick. Jeffery Helmick is a Toledo native, a brilliant and distinguished lawyer who has earned the respect of his colleagues for doing his job well. Yet for nearly 2 years his nomination has languished. For nearly 2 years he has had to place his defense practice and life on hold, awaiting Senate confirmation. This is no way to treat a public servant.
According to the U.S. Constitution, it is our job to confirm qualified nominees to serve on our Nation's highest court. But as of April of 2012--Senator Lautenberg mentioned this, and Senator Nelson from Florida will in a moment--there are 81 judicial vacancies throughout the United States. In my State of Ohio, the court is saying there is a judicial emergency. The nonpartisan Administrative Office of the Courts, the nonpartisan agency charged with running our Federal courts, recently declared a judicial emergency for the Northern District of Ohio.
Mr. Helmick has the enthusiastic support of all of the Federal judges in Toledo, including those appointed by Republican Presidents, was recommended by a bipartisan process created by Senator Voinovich and me, and yet his nomination is still stuck even though there is a judicial emergency and even though he was approved in a bipartisan manner by the Judiciary Committee. The result is that litigants in the Northern District are experiencing delays in having their cases resolved. In too many cases, justice conferred--as the saying goes--can be just denied.
Our Nation's courts have been a beacon of hope--sometimes, not always--for the vulnerable and the powerless, but this confirmation delay clogs our courts, obstructs justice, and damages our democracy. Maybe some people are playing political games by slow-walking these judges. In the end, they might think it is cute, funny, and they might think they gain politically from it, but it does obstruct justice, it does clog our courts, and it does damage our democracy. So it is not cute, it is not funny, and it is not worthy of any political gains in this Chamber.
Jeffrey Helmick will make an outstanding judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. We need to confirm him, and we need to confirm him this month before Congress breaks.
I yield the floor.
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