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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HARKIN. Madam President, I was honored to recommend to the President that he nominate Jane Kelly to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Today I encourage my colleagues to vote for her confirmation, which will be the first vote at noon.

Let me begin by thanking Senator Leahy and his staff for their hard work in advancing Ms. Kelly's nomination in such a timely manner. I also thank my senior colleague from Iowa, Senator Grassley, for his invaluable support and assistance. For all the years we have served together, Senator Grassley and I have cooperated in a spirit of good will on judicial nominations in our State. I am grateful that tradition has continued.

Jane Kelly possesses all the qualifications necessary to assume the responsibilities of a Federal appellate judge. Before recommending Ms. Kelly to the President, I reviewed a very strong field of candidates for this position. She stood out as a person of truly outstanding intellect and character, with a reputation as an extremely talented lawyer with a deep sense of compassion and fairness. Not surprisingly, she enjoys wide bipartisan support from the Iowa legal community.

Judge Michael Melloy, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, and whose seat on the Eighth Circuit Ms. Kelly is nominated to fill, said Ms. Kelly ``is very intelligent and thoughtful.''

Judge David Hansen, who was President George H.W. Bush's nominee to serve on the Eighth Circuit and for whom Ms. Kelly clerked, said: ``She is a forthright woman of high integrity and of honest character'' who ``will be a welcome addition to the court.''

I might also point out for the record that both of those nominees under Republican Presidents I was proud to support, under the leadership of Senator Grassley.

Federal District Court Judge Stephanie Rose remembered Ms. Kelly ``has a great blend of personality, skills and common sense to make a great lawyer and judge.''

The American Bar Association gave her a unanimous ``qualified'' rating. Ms. Kelly is a credit to all of us who have chosen to be in public service. She earned her bachelor's degree summa cum laude from Duke, served as a Fulbright Scholar, and received her J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School. After law school she was a law clerk to Judge Donald Porter of the District Court of South Dakota and to Judge David Hansen on the Iowa Eighth Circuit. She could easily have commanded a big salary with a top law firm, but instead for over 20 years she has opted for public service and long hours as a Federal public defender. We are fortunate she seeks to continue her public service to Iowa and our Nation by serving as a Federal judge.

Let me conclude with two additional notes about Ms. Kelly's nomination. First, if confirmed, Ms. Kelly will only be the second female judge in the history of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, a court established in 1891. While 56 men have sat on that court, to date there has only been one woman, Diana Murphy of Minnesota. President Obama has nominated approximately 100 former prosecutors to the Federal bench, including one I recommended, former U.S. attorney Stephanie Rose, to the Southern District of Iowa. Among recent Presidents that is the highest percentage of former prosecutors to be nominated to the Federal bench. These are all outstanding attorneys and dedicated public servants.

As Judge Melloy recently noted with respect to Ms. Kelly: ``It will be good to have someone from the public defender realm on the bench.''

Ms. Kelly has served for more than 20 years in the Federal defender's office, where she has argued hundreds of cases on behalf of indigent clients. She has fought tirelessly to ensure that the rights of all are protected, and she has worked to give meaning to the phrase above the Supreme Court, ``Equal Justice Under Law.'' This is a critically important perspective that she will bring to the court.

As an aside, it strikes me as especially fitting that Ms. Kelly, a career public defender, has been nominated for the Federal bench this year as we observe the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright. As we all know, that landmark decision recognized that every person accused of a crime, no matter how poor, is guaranteed the right to counsel. At its core, Gideon is the promise of justice for all, including our most vulnerable citizens. This is an ideal to which Ms. Kelly has dedicated her entire legal career.

Jane Kelly is superbly qualified to serve as the U.S. Court of Appeals judge for the Eighth Circuit. I urge all of my colleagues to support her nomination and confirmation.

Madam President, I yield the floor, and I note the absence of a quorum.


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