Fast Work on 11th Circuit Posts for Fla., Ala.?

Florida gets nominee; Alabama congresswoman is screening applicants

, Daily Report


Photo of Judge Joel Dubina
Judge Joel Dubina went senior in October, creating Alabama vacancy.

While the process of nominating and confirming judges for two Georgia-based vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit drags on, things may move more quickly when it comes to slots on the court reserved for Florida and Alabama.

President Barack Obama's longstanding nominee for a Georgia-based spot on the Eleventh Circuit that opened up in 2010, Atlanta litigator Jill Pryor, still hasn't been given a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Although the president apparently has a pick for another Eleventh Circuit opening created in 2012, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Julie Carnes, he is under fire from African-American lawyers over his selections for federal appellate and district court judgeships in Georgia and hasn't yet formally nominated Carnes.

Meanwhile, about six weeks after a Florida-based vacancy on the Eleventh Circuit was created, Obama nominated a Fort Lauderdale district court judge, Robin Rosenbaum, for the appellate court. Less than a month after an Alabama-based spot on the Eleventh Circuit opened up, an Alabama congresswoman began culling applications for that job.

Rosenbaum would replace Rosemary Barkett, who left the court at the end of September to become a judge on the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal. Confirmed as Obama's pick for a district court judgeship last year, Rosenbaum is an alumna of Holland & Knight who previously served as staff counsel to the independent counsel who investigated former U.S. Commerce Secretary Ronald Brown. She also clerked for Eleventh Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus. She was economic crimes section chief at the U.S. attorney's office in the Southern District of Florida before becoming a federal magistrate judge. On her nomination to the Eleventh Circuit, Rosenbaum has received a unanimous "well qualified" rating from the committee of the American Bar Association that vets would-be federal judges.

The White House announced Rosenbaum's nomination on Nov. 7, but reports that she was being vetted for the post came out several weeks before that. In an interview with the Daily Report this week, Montgomery, Ala.-based Eleventh Circuit Judge Joel Dubina cited Rosenbaum's candidacy for the court as one reason for the timing of his Oct. 25 letter to Obama saying he would take senior status effective the following day.

Dubina, who served as the court's chief judge from 2009 until handing over the reins to fellow Montgomery judge Edward Carnes on Aug. 1, had been eligible to take senior status, the federal judiciary's version of semi-retirement, since October 2012. But he had said he was delaying a step down from fully active status given the number of vacancies already on the court because he didn't want to leave his colleagues "in the lurch."

In this week's interview, Dubina said he went ahead and took senior status in light of Rosenbaum's candidacy and his understanding that a deal had been reached concerning the two Georgia-based vacancies. "I really am hopeful that sometime next year these three vacancies will be filled," said Dubina. "And we'll wait and see what happens to mine."

Dubina said he is working about half a normal caseload and didn't have plans to teach or do work other than that of the Eleventh Circuit anytime soon. He added that he had volunteered to help the court with some administrative work, if needed. "I plan to continue working as long as my health remains good," he said.

A deal may have been reached for the Georgia-based vacancies, but some are objecting.

The nomination of Pryor and the prospective nomination of Julie Carnes for the Eleventh Circuit are, along with four candidates for vacancies on the Northern District of Georgia, part of a slate of candidates that Georgia's two Republican senators approved in consultation with the White House earlier this year. An organization representing the state's African-American legal associations has complained that the slate is "not reflective of Georgia's rich diversity in thought and ethnicity." Of the six people on the slate for the vacant federal posts, only one is an African-American. Three (including Pryor and Carnes) are white women; two are white men. The black bar organization has asked to meet with Obama to convey its objections.

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