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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Three judicial nominees make it through blue-slip debacle and out of committee

Republican frustrations over the disappearance of the blue slip for circuit court nominations did not torpedo the chances of Biden's Sixth Circuit pick and two prospective district judges.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The House Judiciary Committee advanced three judicial nominations to the Senate Thursday morning despite tensions over how the White House handled the nomination of President Joe Biden's pick to the Sixth Circuit.

Andre Mathis faced criticism from Republicans, including his home-state senator, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, but made it out of committee by a 12-10 vote.

In addition to slamming Mathis' history of three traffic violations as a "rap sheet," Blackburn argued during a mid-January nomination hearing that the White House had not properly considered the input from her or the other Tennessee senator, another Republican, on who to appoint to fill the judicial vacancy.

"The Biden White House has eliminated the role of home-state senators in the nomination process," Blackburn said Thursday.

It was during the Trump administration that Republican senators on the committee nixed the "blue slip," which previously required approval from home-state senators, on circuit court nominations. Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, said the White House reached out to Blackburn's office multiple times regarding the nomination process.

"The White House did engage in meaningful consultation. It is true the president did not ultimately nominate the Tennessee senators’ choice of judge, but that was the decision for the president to make," Durbin said.

Mathis is a partner at Butler Snow, a law firm in Memphis, and previously worked for the law firm Glankler Brown. His career has focused on commercial and government litigation with some criminal defense work. The University of Memphis graduate has also served indigent criminal defendants as a member of the Criminal Justice Act Panel in the Western District of Tennessee and through pro bono work with the Tennessee Innocence Project.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mathis would be the first Black man from Tennessee to serve on the Sixth Circuit.

Two other nominees, including Hector Gonzalez, a nominee for the Eastern District of New York, made it out of committee Thursday.

Gonzalez is a partner at Dechert LLP and head of his firm's global litigation practice. He was a partner at Mayer Brown for more than 10 years, spent several years as a U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York and as a litigation associate at Roger & Wells. Gonzalez is a graduate of the City University of New York, Manhattan College, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

If confirmed, Gonzalez would be the only actively serving Hispanic judge on the court.

Fred W. Slaughter, a nominee to the Central District of California, is also moving on to the Senate for confirmation.

Slaughter currently serves as a judge on the Superior Court of Orange County. The UCLA graduate previously worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the criminal divisions of the Central District of California, the District of Oregon and the District of Arizona. From 2000 to 2002, Slaughter was a deputy city attorney with the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office.

One of the nominees, Jessica G.L. Clarke, who is under consideration for the Southern District of New York, received a tie vote.

The whole Senate will now have to hold an extra vote on whether to discharge or continue forward with Clarke's confirmation.

Clarke has worked as the chief of the Civil Rights Bureau at the New York State Office of Attorney General since 2019 and previously worked for Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady Ward & Maazel.

For more than five years, Clarke served as a trial attorney in the Housing & Civil Enforcement Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. Clarke is a graduate of Northwestern University and The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

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