Senators Confirm New Nebraska Federal Judge

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Senate on Monday unanimously confirmed its first federal judicial nomination in nearly a month, filling a Nebraska court seat that has been vacant since 2014.
     President Barack Obama nominated Robert F. Rossiter Jr., on June 11, 2015, to fill Judge Joseph Bataillon’s spot on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. Bataillon reached senior status in October 2014.
     The Senate approved Rossiter with a 90-0 vote Monday afternoon.
     “Whether Bob is working on federal and state employment litigation or administrative agency investigations, he always demonstrates an admirable commitment to integrity and to the rule of law,” Sen. Deb Fischer, R- Neb., said on the floor before the vote.
     The Senate last confirmed a federal nomination on June 6, when it approved Jennifer Choe Groves and Gary Stephen Katzmann to serve on the U.S. Court of International Trade.
     Rossiter is currently a partner at Nebraska law firm Fraser Stryker, which he joined in 1983, according to a White House press release announcing his nomination. He clerked for Judge C. Arlene Beam at the Nebraska Federal Court from 1982 to 1983, an experience he praised during his nomination hearing last year.
     “That clerkship really gave me a view of the United States District Court system and a love of that system that I’ve practiced in since that time,” Rossiter told the Senate Judiciary Committee last September.
     Rossiter graduated from Purdue University in 1978 before receiving his J.D. from Creighton University in 1981, according to his biography on the Fraser Stryker website.
     At the time Obama chose him to replace Bataillon, Rossiter was president-elect of the Nebraska State Bar Association, though he never held the position because of the nomination.
     “I’m confident that we have found a truly remarkable and qualified person to fill the vacancy on Nebraska’s Federal District Court, and I urge my colleagues to support Bob Rossiter’s nomination so that he can put his outstanding intellect, skill and judgment to work for the American people,” Fischer said on the floor Monday.
     During the confirmation process, Rossiter had to answer for representing employers in sexual harassment and religious discrimination lawsuits brought against them. Responding to a written questionnaire from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Rossiter assured senators he would be able to handle such cases without bias.
     “While I have handled this type of litigation throughout my career, one of my duties to my clients was to objectively advise them, including when claims brought against them had merit,” Rossiter wrote. “I believe that I can view such suits in an objective and impartial way.”
     He also assured Republicans on the judiciary committee that he would respect higher court precedent and apply the law without any personal opinions or input from the “world community” seeping into his rulings.
     “If confirmed, my decisions would be grounded in precedent and the text of the law,” Rossiter wrote, responding to Grassley’s questionnaire. “The oath I take would require me to apply precedent and statutory text rather than relying upon any political ideology, motivation or other bias.”
     Rossiter’s confirmation leaves 57 nominees pending before the Senate, including Merrick Garland, Obama’s choice to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat left by the death of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
     The Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed five nominations since Scalia’s death in February and 10 total this year, including Rossiter.
     Republican leadership has held firm on its vow not to hold hearings on Garland’s nomination and has resisted even letting nominations to lower courts trickle out.
     Senate Democrats have leapt on the Republican blockade as an opportunity to tie leadership to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in the hopes of taking back the Senate in the fall elections, consistently repeating in speeches and press conferences some variation of the phrase “do your job.”
     Before the Rossiter vote on Monday afternoon, Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, took his turn blasting his Republican colleagues for leaving Obama’s nominees “languishing on the Senate floor.”
     “These are men and women who are prepared to do their job if we give them a vote,” Leahy said on the floor. “What they can’t understand, the American people can’t understand, is why won’t the Senate Republican leadership let us do our job? After all, we’re paid for it.”

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