President Barack Obama has renominated Atlanta litigator Jill Pryor for a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, along with 32 others whose nominations to federal judgeships had expired when the 112th Congress adjourned.
An American Bar Association committee was unanimous in giving Pryor, who graduated from Yale Law School and clerked for Eleventh Circuit Judge J.L. Edmondson, a "well qualified" rating. But Georgia's Republican senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, stopped her nomination from proceeding.
The senators told the White House early last year that they preferred Troutman Sanders partner Mark Cohen for the circuit opening created by the 2010 retirement of Stanley Birch Jr. They said they would support Pryor and U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Walker for two open district court spots.
Edmondson took senior status in July, creating yet another Georgia-based circuit court opening.
There still are no nominees for the vacancies in the Northern District of Georgia. In January 2011, Obama nominated Walker and Natasha Perdew Silas, an attorney with the Federal Defender Program in Atlanta, to fill the posts but withdrew both nominations at the end of 2011 after Chambliss and Isakson refused to lend their support to Silas.
In announcing his 33 renominations, the president chastised the Senate for failing to act on the nominations before they expired at the end of 2012.
Obama resubmitted seven nominees to the federal appeals courts, 24 to federal district courts and two to the Court of International Trade. The renominated lawyers included Caitlin Halligan, general counsel with the New York County District Attorney's office, who Obama has unsuccessfully nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit four times since 2010.
"Today, I am re-nominating thirty-three highly qualified candidates for the federal bench, including many who could have and should have been confirmed before the Senate adjourned," Obama said in a statement. "Several have been awaiting a vote for more than six months, even though they all enjoy bipartisan support."
Obama's first term ended with more judicial vacancies than when he took office, according to a report from the Brookings Institution. Democrats have blamed Republicans for refusing to act on nominees, while Republicans have accused Obama of being too slow in choosing them.
Besides Pryor and Halligan, the renominated individuals to appellate courts are Judge Robert Bacharach to the Tenth Circuit; William Kayatta Jr. to the First Circuit; Judge Patty Shwartz to the Third Circuit; Srikanth Srinivasan to the D.C. Circuit; and Richard Gary Taranto to the Federal Circuit.
Zoe Tillman writes for The National Law Journal, a Daily Report affiliate.