NJ Democrat Blocks Obama Nominee to Federal Appeals Court

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.