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Senate Panel Approves D.C. Cir., Sentencing Commission Picks (1)

July 21, 2022, 2:37 PMUpdated: July 21, 2022, 4:03 PM

President Joe Biden’s nominee to replace Ketanji Brown Jackson on the federal appeals courts based in Washington won approval from a Senate panel along with a bipartisan slate of nominees to the US Sentencing Commission.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved US District Judge Florence Y. Pan’s nomination to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Thursday, 13-9. Pan has served on the federal district court in Washington since September 2021. She replaced Jackson on that court, too. Jackson is now on the US Supreme Court.

The committee also approved Biden’s seven nominees to the Sentencing Commission by voice vote. The picks would give the panel its first quorum since 2019, if ultimately confirmed.

Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) noted that the commission, created in 1984 to promote transparency and consistency in sentencing, has been unable to update guidelines to federal judges.

“Today we make an important step to rectify the situation,” Durbin said before the vote that sent the nominees to the full Senate.

Although voice votes have no formal tally, Republican and Democratic committee members asked to be recorded as voting “no” on several nominees.

Six Republicans asked to be recorded as “no” votes on four nominees, including US District Judge Carlton Reeves of the Southern District of Mississippi. He would be the first Black chair in the commission’s history if confirmed by the Senate.

Those Republicans were Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Texas), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), John Kennedy (La.), and Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.).

Three Democrats asked to be recorded as “no” votes on Claire McCusker Murray, who served as principal deputy associate attorney general in the Trump Justice Department. Those Democrats were Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), and Jon Ossoff (Ga.).

Ossoff also asked to be recorded as a “no” on Candice Wong, an assistant US attorney in Washington.

Before the vote, Durbin said he, too, had “reservations” about some of the nominees on the slate but that he would support all of them. By statute, the commission must be bipartisan and consist of at least three federal judges and no more than four members of each political party.

“Because it’s a bipartisan agency, we won’t all agree with the policy positions put forward by the members, but it’s important that the commission be able to get to work fixing the issues that have come up with the guidelines,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, or top Republican.

The committee also voted 15-7 to advance US Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Wilson Hanes’ nomination to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Durbin again held over two nominations, citing “attendance issues” on the committee. Rachel Bloomekatz, nominated to the Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit, and Ana Reyes, nominated to the D.C. District, are expected to get votes next week.

(Updates with additional detail on Sentencing Commission vote.)

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