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Two Biden Judge Picks Aren’t Renominated by White House (1)

Jan. 23, 2023, 11:05 PMUpdated: Jan. 24, 2023, 1:50 AM

President Joe Biden isn’t resubmitting two judicial selections for US district courts from last Congress after issues with their nominations, a White House spokesperson said.

William Pocan, picked for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, won’t be renominated “at this time” after he faced opposition from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). And Jorge Alberto Rodriguez, tapped for the Northern District of New York, won’t be renominated after the judge he was nominated to replace rescinded plans to leave the bench.

The nominations were left off Biden’s second list of renominations sent to the US Senate Monday. A third nominee from last Congress left off that list, Jabari Wamble, could still be renominated to the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

“The White House has every confidence in Jabari Wamble,” the spokesperson said in a statement, adding that his absence on the list wasn’t an indication that he won’t be renominated.

The 20 district court nominees sent to Capitol Hill included 17 who didn’t make it to confirmation through 2022 and three new selections. Nominations are returned to the White House at the end of a Congress. The new list means Biden has now renominated all the nominees from last Congress except for Pocan, Rodriguez, and Wamble.

Pocan’s nomination is the first casualty of a Senate custom Democrats are upholding that requires home-state senator support for district picks through a document known as a “blue slip.”

Johnson opposed Pocan, deputy chief Judge of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, after previously sending his nomination to the White House jointly with Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). Keeping with the blue-slip practice, Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) didn’t go forward with a hearing.

Pocan would have been the first LGBTQ life-tenured federal judge in Wisconsin, according to a White House release at the time of his nomination. He is the brother of Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.)

Sopen Shah, a Biden nominee to a US attorney position in Wisconsin, was similarly not renominated after Johnson opposed her.

The White House spokesperson said the Wisconsin senators plan to restart their commission to identify candidates for the judicial and US attorney positions. “As a result, at this time, the President is not renominating Judge Bill Pocan or Ms. Sopen Shah to the positions to which they were previously nominated,” the spokesperson said.

Rodriguez’s fate was expected given that there is no vacancy on the court to which he was nominated.

His nomination was thrown into uncertainty after the judge he would have succeeded, David Hurd, rescinded plans to leave the bench, eliminating the vacancy. Rodriguez is an assistant attorney general in the Office of the Attorney General of New York.

(Updates with White House comments.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at malder@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com