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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. NELSON. Madam President, I would say to my colleague from Connecticut: Amen.

And I would say to my colleague from Oregon: Thank you for your courtesy in letting me go ahead, in light of the fact we have a Federal judge coming up for a vote at 5:30.

I am very grateful to the Judiciary Committee--to both the Democrats and the Republicans--in allowing us to vote, and I urgently implore we confirm Judge Sheri Polster Chappell to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

While I rise to speak in favor of Judge Chappell, I want to express my concern for the growing partisanship that is dragging down our efforts to fill these judicial vacancies across the Nation. In the past we have had qualified consensus judicial nominees who would be confirmed in weeks, if not in days. Unfortunately, even the judicial nominees who have the support of both Senators from the State--and sometimes, as is the case of Florida where we have the Republican Senator, Senator Rubio, and myself, the Democratic Senator--we are still finding the judges are being held up. We are experiencing waiting months for an up-or-down vote only to then have them confirmed overwhelmingly.


Mr. NELSON. I thank the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. A good example--this isn't even a Federal district judge, this is court of appeals--we confirmed the judge 94 to 5, when we finally got a vote. That was Judge Adalberto Jordan, the first Cuban-American-born judge, from Miami, to serve on the U.S. court of appeals. The Eleventh Circuit is one of the busiest circuits in the country. It encompasses the Southeastern United States. He was unanimously reported out of the Judiciary Committee, but he was blocked by a filibuster of judicial nominees after 4 months of waiting on the Executive Calendar.

Obviously, with a vote of 94 to 5, he was eminently qualified. He was not controversial. He had the support of Senator Rubio and myself, a unanimous vote in the Judiciary Committee. Yet his nomination was filibustered.

In addition, highly qualified district court judge nominees are facing the same partisan delays. Obviously, these nominees ought to get confirmed without the needless obstacles, facing potential cloture motions, just to receive an up-or-down vote. I am told the majority leader has had to file cloture on as many as 20 of the Federal district court nominees since 2009. It is an indication that we are clearly going in the wrong direction in this Senate.

I will give one other example. Here the judge we are about to confirm--and before the chairman came in I thanked him profusely, and the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, for bringing Judge Chappell up for a vote today. There is no controversy over Judge Chappell. She has the support of Senator Rubio and myself. She was voted out of the Judiciary Committee twice unanimously. It is a judicial vacancy emergency declared in the Middle District of Florida.

She is waiting. Today is the 329th day.

She was originally nominated during the 112th Congress, but it has taken 329 days to get us to this point today.

Judge Chappell earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Wisconsin and her juris doctor at Nova Southeastern University. Judge Chappell is serving as a United States Magistrate Judge for the Middle District of Florida, where she has been since 2003.

Prior to which she served as a county court judge in the Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Florida and she began her legal career as prosecutor in Fort Myers. Judge Chappell has also been an active member of the community. She has served on the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Domestic Violence Task Force, and the truancy board. Judge Chappell is a true public servant and she will make a fine district court judge.

As of May 20, 2013, according to the United States Administrative Office of the Courts, there are 34 judicial emergency vacancies across this Nation. Florida is home to four empty benches--two in the middle district of Florida and two in the southern district of Florida. In total there are 84 judicial vacancies waiting to be filled and 28 nominees stuck in the pipeline waiting for confirmation. These delays in filling vacancies mean that courts are overburdened. It also means that our citizens are seeing their day in court delayed.

The public is concerned as these delays are further exacerbating the problem facing the courts. In fact, these delays are a scathing indictment of the lack of cooperation and growing partisan nature of process for confirming judicial nominations. These delays undermine the public trust and are illustrative of the stranglehold that partisanship has on Washington and on the rest of the country.

We cannot have that. It is time to confirm Judge Polster Chappell and move with purpose on the rest of these nominations so we can get our courts fully staffed and the judicial system working how it is supposed to.

I again thank the Judiciary Committee for bringing up Judge Chappell, but it cannot keep going on like this. I hope we are going to see some reform and movement quickly.


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