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Webb, Warner urge confirmation of 4th Circuit nominee

Update, 4 p.m.:
The Senate on Friday scheduled a vote on Keenan's nomination for Tuesday, according to the office of Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va)

Original post:
When President Obama was elected, legal scholars said he had a unique opportunity to reshape the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, a conservative bastion that had been drifting toward Democratic control.

Now, Virginia's two Democratic U.S. Senators are calling on their colleagues to quicken the pace of that shift.

Sen. James Webb and Sen. Mark R. Warner on Thursday urged a prompt Senate vote on the 4th Circuit nomination of Virginia Supreme Court Justice Barbara Milano Keenan, a longtime Northern Virginian who has served at every level of the state judiciary. Keenan has been a state Supreme Court justice since 1991 and a trailblazer for women in the law throughout her career.

In January, she became the first woman to swear in a Virginia governor when she administered the oath to Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R).

Obama nominated Keenan in September, and her confirmation would fill one of four remaining vacancies on the Richmond-based court. The 4th Circuit, an influential voice on national security cases, hears cases from Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and the Carolinas. Vacancies have whittled away its strong Republican majority, and the court now has six judges appointed by Democratic presidents and five appointed by Republicans.

An earlier Obama nominee, Judge Andre M. Davis, was confirmed in November, and the court could gain a 10 to 5 Democratic majority during Obama’s term.

“I would like to respectfully request in the name of good governance and the proper functioning of our constitutional system that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle allow a prompt vote on her nomination,” Webb said Thursday on the Senate floor. “Her nomination is non-controversial. She has been a dedicated public servant, a fair and balanced jurist.”

Warner praised Keenan’s “extensive experience, judicial temperament and commitment to the law.’’

-- Jerry Markon

By Washington Post editors  |  February 26, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  From the Courthouse , Jerry Markon  
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UPDATE: Incredibly, next Tuesday vote on Judge Keenan's nomination is not an up-and-down vote. Unexplained GOP Senate opposition has forced a scheduled cloture (anti-filibuster) vote to cut off debate, even though the Judiciary Committee approved Judge Keenan by a unanimous voice vote back in October. When Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner urged a vote on the merits this week, they explained that Republican Governor McDonnell specifically requested that Justice Keenan deliver him the oath of office.

Continuing across-the-board obstruction of President Obama’s consensus judicial nominees has caused federal court vacancies to exceed 100.

Unless one or more Senators publicly explain the delay of Keenan, it will be obvious that this is just the latest example of mindless GOP Senate partisanship.

-Glenn Sugameli
Staff Attorney
Judging the Environment

Posted by: GlennSugameliJTE | February 27, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

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