The United States Law Week

Trump Fills Longest-Standing Vacancy in Federal Judiciary (1)

Dec. 5, 2019, 8:50 PMUpdated: Dec. 5, 2019, 10:38 PM

An embattled federal district court seat in North Carolina that multiple presidents struggled to fill over the course of 14 years finally has a new occupant.

The Senate on Dec. 5 voted 68 to 21 to confirm law professor Richard E. Myers to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, eliminating the longest-running vacancy in the federal judiciary and bolstering President Donald Trump’s efforts to reshape the courts with conservatives.

Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both tried and failed to fill the post, and a previous attempt by Trump also fell flat.

The Trump White House first picked Thomas Farr, a lawyer who Bush had previously sought to place on the court. But opposition by South Carolina’s Tim Scott, the only black Republican senator, effectively derailed the nomination under Trump over Farr’s work that included defending state election laws that courts said discriminated against black voters.

In 2013, Obama nominated then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer May-Parker to fill the vacancy. But her nomination didn’t go forward due to the lack of full support from both home-state senators. His second nominee also fell short for the same reason.

Chief Judge of the Eastern District of North Carolina Terrence W. Boyle told Bloomberg Law, that he’s “delighted” to have Myers joining the court that serves nearly half of the state and ends the 14-year vacancy.

“I think he’ll be great judge,” Boyle said. “He’s got all the qualities and attributes that you need to serve in that capacity, and he should be a welcome and strong addition to our court.”

In the absence of a fourth judge on the court, the Eastern District of North Carolina has relied on two senior status judges to ease the caseload,

It’s been “a lot of work,” Boyle said.

Myers, who Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said would be the first black judge on his court, is a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law and is a former federal prosecutor.

He, like many of Trump’s nominees, is a member of the conservative Federalist Society, and is the faculty adviser for UNC’s chapter of the organization. He also was an associate with O’Melveny & Myers nearly 20 years ago.

The vacancy Myers filled was one of about 50 considered a judicial emergency in the U.S. Judicial emergencies are determined by an algorithm that weighs how long the seat has been open and each judges’ workload.

Myers’ confirmation comes as the Republican-led Senate is in an all-out push to confirm more judges by year’s end. The Senate confirmed eight district judges this week, bringing the total of Trump appointments to district and circuit courts to 170. That total includes Supreme Court appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Trump previously said he aims to have 183 federal judges appointed by the end of the year.

In addition to Myers, the Senate also confirmed a judge to Graham’s home state of South Carolina.

Sherri A. Lydon, an attorney and former federal prosecutor, was confirmed 76 to 13 to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. She replaces A. Marvin Quattlebaum, a Trump-appointee who held the seat briefly before being elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

(Updates with comments from Judge Terrence W. Boyle)

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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