Letter To The President On Judges

41 Senate Republicans Send Letter To President Obama Urging Consultation On Judicial Nominees

March 2, 2009

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C.  20500

Dear Mr. President:

We look forward to working with you as you consider nominees for the federal judiciary.  Unfortunately, the judicial appointments process has become needlessly acrimonious.  We would very much like to improve this process, and we know you would as well.  It is in that spirit that we write early on to suggest two steps your Administration can take to achieve that shared goal.  

First, in the beginning of his Administration, your predecessor demonstrated his desire to improve the judicial confirmation process by nominating to the circuit courts two of President Clinton’s previous judicial nominees, Judge Barrington Parker to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Roger Gregory to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  It would help change the tone in Washington if your Administration would take the same bipartisan step.  Because the last Congress sadly set the modern record for the fewest circuit court confirmations in a President’s final Congress, there are plenty of well-qualified nominees with bipartisan support from whom to choose.  For example, Peter Keisler has been praised repeatedly by colleagues in both the public and private sector, Democrats and Republicans, and has earned accolades from major media observers, like The Washington Post.  And Judges Glen Conrad and Paul Diamond both enjoyed bipartisan support and have outstanding records on the federal trial bench.

Second, as our Democratic colleagues have emphasized for the last several years, the process of federal appointments is a shared constitutional responsibility.  We respect your responsibility to nominate suitable candidates for the federal bench.  And as a former colleague, we know you appreciate the Senate’s unique constitutional responsibility to provide or withhold its Advice and Consent on nominations.  The principle of senatorial consultation (or senatorial courtesy) is rooted in this special responsibility, and its application dates to the Administration of George Washington.  Democrats and Republicans have acknowledged the importance of maintaining this principle, which allows individual senators to provide valuable insights into their constituents’ qualifications for federal service. 

We hope your Administration will consult with us as it considers possible nominations to the federal courts from our states.  Regretfully, if we are not consulted on, and approve of, a nominee from our states, the Republican Conference will be unable to support moving forward on that nominee.  Despite press reports that the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee now may be considering changing the Committee’s practice of observing senatorial courtesy, we, as a Conference, expect it to be observed, even-handedly and regardless of party affiliation.  And we will act to preserve this principle and the rights of our colleagues if it is not.      

Because of the profound impact that life-tenured federal judges can have in our society, the Founders made their appointment a shared constitutional responsibility.  We look forward to working with you to discharge this important duty in the best interest of our country.

All Republican Senators

Cc: The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy