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Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, before I begin the focus of my remarks and the reason I came to the floor, I wish to commend the Senator from Tennessee for his thoughtful remarks and what I think is a thoughtful and important position he is taking on the START treaty. I listened with great interest, and I learned additional information about the importance of putting this treaty in effect. I also acknowledge the Senator's concerns about missile defense, about tactical nuclear weapons, and the other concerns that have been raised in this very important and obviously historic debate on the floor of the Senate. I thank the Senator from Tennessee for his leadership.



I also wanted to associate myself with the remarks of Senator Bennet, the Senator from Colorado, in regard to Senator Specter's farewell address to the Senate. In particular, I think Senator Specter laid out a thoughtful and comprehensive way we can change the Senate rules in the upcoming 112th Congress in ways that respect the rights of the minority but also provide the Senate with some additional ways to do the people's business.

I know the Presiding Officer spent significant time on finding a way forward for the Senate. I look forward to the debate that will begin when we convene in just a couple of weeks for the 112th Congress.


Let me turn to the reason I came to the floor initially, and that is to urge my colleagues to support an outstanding nominee to the Federal bench, Mr. William Martinez. Bill's story is an inspirational one, and I will share that with you in a moment, but I wanted to first talk about why there is such an urgency to confirm this fine nominee.

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

I know the Presiding Officer is familiar with the need for a fully stocked Federal bench as a former attorney general.

There is even more to the story. In 2008, based on the significant caseload in Colorado, the Judicial Conference of the United States recommended the creation of an eighth judgeship on the Colorado District Court.

This is a pressing situation, but I know it is not unique just to Colorado. Of the 100 current judicial vacancies, 46 are considered judicial emergencies--almost half of those vacancies. I understand the Senate has confirmed just 53 Federal circuit and district court nominees since President Obama was elected, including the judges over the last weekend. This is half as many as were confirmed in the first 2 years of the Bush administration and represents a historic low, which, no matter who is to blame, is very detrimental to our system of justice.

Bill Martinez was nominated in February of this year, had a hearing in March, and was referred favorably by the Judiciary Committee to the full Senate in April. So today his nomination has been sitting on the Senate's Executive Calendar for over 8 months.

I am not going to complain about partisan delays, although I know this continues to plague the Senate. Instead, in hope that we might improve the nomination process, I want my colleagues to hear the real effect of imposing these delays on nominees.

The people of Colorado deserve well-qualified justices, but what the Senate put Bill Martinez through should make each of us question where our priorities are--and I say that because, unlike other judicial nominees before the Senate, Bill Martinez' life has been turned upside down because of this delay in his confirmation. While many other nominees--and I don't begrudge them this--continued their judicial careers because they were sitting on the bench, he has essentially had to dismantle his law practice

to avoid Federal conflicts and even limit taking clients to ensure they continue to receive representation once he is confirmed. Both his life and his livelihood have been put on hold just because he was willing to become a dedicated public servant. If we continue this record or this habit of needlessly delaying judicial nominations, we risk chasing off qualified nominees such as Bill Martinez.

His long and winding road began last year when Senator Bennet and I convened a bipartisan advisory committee, chaired by prominent legal experts in Colorado, to help us identify the most qualified candidates for the Federal bench. The committee interviewed many impressive individuals, and then, based on his life experience, his record of legal service, and his impressive abilities, both Republicans and Democrats on this panel together recommended Bill Martinez for a Federal judgeship. The President agreed and then subsequently nominated Bill for the vacant judgeship I mentioned.

There is no doubt that being nominated for a Federal judgeship is a prestigious honor, but since being nominated, Senate delays have not only affected Bill and his family, but those delays have sent a discouraging message to future nominees. Despite these disruptions the process has caused for Bill and the dangerous precedent his delay may have set, I am relieved that the Senate is finally giving this qualified candidate the confirmation vote he deserves today.

I have spoken about his impressive intellect and experience on the floor before, but in advance of my vote, I would like my colleagues to hear one more time why Bill Martinez was selected by the bipartisan advisory committee for this judgeship.

In addition to being an accomplished attorney and a true role model in our community in Colorado, he has a personal story that captures what is great about America and highlights what can be accomplished with focus, discipline, and extraordinary hard work.

Bill was born in Mexico City, and he immigrated lawfully to the United States as a child. He worked his way through school and college and toward a career in law, becoming the first member of his family to attend college. He received undergraduate degrees in environmental engineering and political science from the University of Illinois and earned his law degree from the University of Chicago.

As a lawyer, Bill has become an expert in employment and civil rights law. He first began his legal career in Illinois, where he practiced with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, litigating several law reform and class action cases on behalf of indigent and working-class clients. For the last 14 years, he has been in private practice and previously served as a regional attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Denver.

As you can imagine, over the years Bill has been a very active member of the Denver legal community. During the 1990s, he was an adjunct professor of law at the University of Denver College of Law and has been a mentor to minority law students. He is currently vice chair of the Committee on Conduct for the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, and he has been a board member and officer of the faculty of Federal Advocates.

Bill also sits on the board of directors of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association, where he serves as the chair of the bar association's Ethics Committee. More recently, he was appointed by the Colorado Bar Association to the board of directors of Colorado Legal Services and by the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court to the Judicial Ethics Advisory Board.

Like all of us, I believe in a strong, well-balanced court system that serves the needs of our citizens. Bill Martinez will bring that sense of balance because of his broad legal background, professionalism, and his outstanding intellect. I am proud to have recommended Bill, and I am certain that once confirmed he will make an outstanding judge.

Before I conclude, I did want to give special acknowledgment to my general counsel, Alex Harman, who has worked night and day on this nomination. Alex has worked tirelessly to see that Bill Martinez receives the vote he deserves, and I want to acknowledge him here on the floor of the Senate.

I ask my colleagues to give their full support to this extraordinary candidate and vote to confirm his nomination to the Colorado District Court as a new Federal judge.

I yield the floor.


Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, I rise in response to Senator Sessions' comments about a nominee we are going to consider shortly, Bill Martinez.

Senator Sessions just spoke about the ACLU for 30 minutes, trying to define Bill Martinez--a district court nominee, not the appeals court as Sessions noted--as an ACLU-like nominee and then criticizing his hearing responses on the death penalty and the empathy standard. I wanted to clarify for the record three points of misinformation.

Bill Martinez did not work for the ACLU. He served on an advisory board regarding cases in Denver. Several Bush nominees were members of the Federalist Society and contributors to other conservative litigation centers and were confirmed just a few years ago. Bill Martinez is not the ACLU, and we ought to be careful to avoid setting false standards.

From the Martinez Hearing:

Senator Sessions: Have you ever acted as counsel in a matter on behalf of the ACLU? If so, please provide the Committee with a citation for each case, a description of the matter, and a description of your participation in that matter.

Martinez Response: No.

Senator Sessions claimed he was dissatisfied with Bill Martinez's response regarding the death penalty, stating that he was not clear in his beliefs. This is misleading and the record states otherwise.

From the Martinez Hearing:

Senator Sessions: Please answer whether you personally believe that the death penalty violates the Constitution.

Martinez Response: It is clear under current Supreme Court jurisprudence that, with very limited exceptions, the death penalty does not violate the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976); Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005); Kennedy v. Louisiana, 129 S.Ct. 1 (2008). Consistent with this precedent, I do not believe the death penalty is unconstitutional.

Senator Sessions also claimed that Bill Martinez stated empathy can be taken into consideration with legal decisions. This is misleading and the record states otherwise.

From the Martinez Hearing:

Senator Sessions: Do you think that it's ever proper for judges to indulge their own subjective sense of empathy in determining what the law means?

Martinez Response: No.

Let me end on this note. Bill Martinez is a man of high character, he is a good man, and he will make an excellent Federal judge. Let us vote to confirm Bill Martinez to the Colorado U.S. District Court.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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