Senate Panel Advances Pair of Biden Judicial Nominees

Two women chosen for federal judgeships in Maryland are heading for a full Senate vote.

(Courthouse News photo/Jack Rodgers)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced a pair of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees, moving the candidates on for consideration before the full Senate.

The committee considered the nominations of Deborah L. Boardman and Lydia Kay Griggsby, both chosen to fill vacancies on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

Boardman’s nomination advanced to the full Senate by a party-line vote of 11-10, while Griggsby faced less resistance and was approved by a 16-6 vote.

Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, outlined Boardman’s qualifications, noting she had received glowing recommendations from the American Bar Association and her 11-year tenure as a public defender was exemplary. A Maryland native, Boardman spent six years in private practice with Hogan Lovells as a senior associate in the pro bono department.

“She has the strong support of her home senators, [and] understands and respects the difference between advocacy and being a judge,” Durbin said.

Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican and ranking member of the committee, voiced his opposition to the Boardman’s nomination. He said he is concerned with nominees whose careers “are only so defined by criminal defense,” suggesting they might not be up to the task of serving as a judge.

“At her hearing, she was asked basic questions about constitutional law by [Louisiana Republican] Senator [John] Kennedy as were many, many nominees under President Trump,” Grassley said. “I don’t think she passed professor Kennedy’s exam. I have no doubt that she’d have exceled at questions of criminal procedure, but that’s only one part of the job along with basic constitutional law.”

Griggsby is a former staffer of Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she served as senators’ chief counsel for privacy and information policy.

Before that, Griggsby spent a decade at the Justice Department as an assistant U.S. attorney and currently serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. She earned her law degree at Georgetown University and has a background in government, with a bachelor’s degree in public policy political science from the University of Pennsylvania.

She was nominated to her current post on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims by former President Barack Obama and was confirmed by a voice vote in 2014, a show of widespread support. If confirmed for the federal judgeship in Maryland, Griggsby would be the first Black woman and person of color to serve on that bench.

Leahy spoke highly of his former staffer, adding her commitment to the rule of law was the most notable aspect of her work ethic. He also pointed to Griggsby’s willingness to work with junior staff members when serving in the Senate and lauded her impartiality to apply the law to situations without bias.

“This is somebody that everybody who appears there, plaintiff or defendant, can feel they have a real judge,” Leahy said.

The committee was set to consider several other nominees Thursday – including that of Tiffany P. Cunningham, up for a spot on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals – but those votes were held over until the next meeting, which has not yet been scheduled.

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