NJ Senator Takes Rare Step to Block Obama’s Judicial Nomination

New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez has remained mum on why he is blocking the appointment of a popular judge backed by President Barack Obama to the federal appeals court – the first time a Democrat has held up an Obama judicial nomination.

U.S. Magistrate Patty Shwartz was nominated by Obama to the Third Circuit. She is highly regarded among lawyers and judges and was expected to breeze through the confirmation process.

But Senate rules require nominations to obtain the acknowledgment from both senators in the state by sending by what’s called a “blue slip” -- a form that merely registers their opinion, yes or no. Without the blue slip, the nomination cannot proceed and no other response or explanation is required.

Menendez has yet to comment about why he has not turned in the blue slip, but observers note the possible bad blood between the senator and the Shwartz.

The 50-year-old New Jersey native once worked for the Newark federal prosecutor's office, long before it investigated Menendez for corruption without bringing forward any charges. And the judge is in a long-term relationship with the head of the public corruption for that office.

The U.S. Court of Appeals is the second highest court in the country. New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg quickly signed off on Shwartz's nomination.