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NJ Democrat Blocks Obama Nominee to Federal Appeals Court

Friday, January 06, 2012

New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is taking issue with speculation voiced Friday that he is blocking the appointment of a popular judge to the federal appeals court because of a personal vendetta.

“It is incredibly disappointing and unfortunate that my real concerns over the suitability of Judge Shwartz to serve a lifetime appointment as circuit court judge have been spun as some petty political vendetta by some of her supporters,” Menendez said in a written statement. “I did not believe it was appropriate, nor was it my intention, to debate Judge Shwartz’s qualifications to serve on the circuit court through the press, but the suppositions and suggestions assigned to my position are false and my concerns are substantive.”

U.S. Magistrate Patty Shwartz was nominated by President Barack Obama to the Third Circuit. It’s the first time a Democrat has held up an Obama judicial nomination.

Shwartz is highly regarded among lawyers and judges and was expected to breeze through the confirmation process. But Senate rules require nominations to obtain the acknowledgement from both senators from the state where the judicial nominee lives 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.

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.

But Menendez said it has nothing to do with his gripes with the prosecutor’s office.

“In my opinion, Judge Shwartz did not adequately demonstrate the breadth of knowledge of constitutional law and pivotal Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens’ United that we should expect from a United States Circuit Court judge,” Menendez said. Citizens United is the decision that defines corporations as individuals who have a right to make political contributions.

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

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Comments [4]

Ah... the federal pocket-veto equivalent of New Jersey's "senatorial courtesy" rule for Gubernatorial appointments.

Let's hope both internal rules change, because it's piddling country-club stuff to hold up the nomination/appointment process.

Jan. 07 2012 05:19 PM
grace mcgrath

this is the first time that i disagree with menendez . i hope that he changes his mind and approves of obama's selection.

Jan. 07 2012 02:18 PM
SKV from NY-NJ

My New Jersey friends are planning to vote against Menendez after reading this. What a digusting display of personal vengeance at the taxpayers' and citizens' cost. Shame on him.

Jan. 07 2012 12:40 PM

Senatorial Courtesy – What a Term for Incompetence

Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) has elected to use his home state senate position to administratively block the consideration of an appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals. This is not new or atypical; it has a long history in America’s governmental politics. But it reflects yet another bad Congressional abuse of power in that it places the judgment of one individual above that of the entire Congress. It may be beneficial to the individual Senator and the Senate may be willing to support and continue this quid pro quo arrangement so that each politician can serve their personal interests within their own political domain.

Now Menendez says that this is not personal, he truly and faithfully believes that the nominee is not qualified. Thus given his individual perspective, judgment and understanding he is confident that his colleagues would not approve the nomination anyway; so he is acting to curtail his peers from needing to assess the nominee (and his assessment).

If he is correct, that the nominee is not qualified for the appointment, we might all expect that he would do what any competent, honorable and intelligent politician would do. (Yes, I know that competent, honorable and intelligent politicians are an endangered species but he could at least strive to ascend to near-competence, near-honorable, and near-intelligent behavior.)

If the nominee is unqualified then present your reasons, facts and positions to the members of Congress. Use the opportunity to inform the public about the importance of the position and the qualities and competencies that such a position require to serve the public interests. Don’t void the issue, don’t hide behind an institutional curtain, and don’t demonstrate through your hidden reasoning that you are afraid and unwilling to bring to light the reasons for your decision. And lastly, do not place your singular judgment above that of every other member of Congress. If your views are accepted and valued then they will vote with you.

Step up, rather than descend into the weak-assed ranks of today’s common politician.

Jan. 07 2012 09:41 AM

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