WASHINGTON – The Senate adjourned for the year Thursday without confirming 28 federal court judgeships, including two from Maryland.
Merrick Garland, 42, of Chevy Chase and Arthur Gajarsa, 55, of Potomac, had been nominated by President Clinton to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Along with the other 26 nominees, they must now be renominated by the president when Congress reconvenes in January.
If GOP presidential nominee Robert J. Dole was to beat Clinton in November, the two men might not be renominated.
“It is unfortunate that these two extremely qualified people, one of whom was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee almost an entire year ago, were caught up in the middle of a partisan fight in an election year,” Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D- Md., said in a written statement.
Sarbanes in September had joined Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski and 40 other Democratic senators in filing written complaints about the Senate’s failure to vote on the 28 judicial nominations.
“It hurts the judicial system because it won’t be able to function at its best,” said Claire Hassett, a Mikulski spokeswoman.
Ranit Schmelzer, press secretary for Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said the Republican leaders held up the votes on the nominations because “they didn’t want to confirm any more nominees made under the Clinton administration.”
The Republican-led Senate has confirmed 73 of the 105 federal judicial nominations made by Clinton during this 104th Congress. Four nominees withdrew.
Susan Irby, press secretary for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said there were objections to all the nominees awaiting confirmation. She did not elaborate. Judicial nominations must be unanimously confirmed by the Senate.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the processing of judgeships has been particularly difficult this year. The Republican-controlled Senate has accused Clinton of stacking the list with liberal judges.
“There is little support, and in fact significant opposition, to moving nominations,” Hatch told the Senate Judicial Committee last week.
President Clinton nominated Garland in September 1995 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He nominated Gajarsa in April to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Gajarsa is a partner in the Washington law firm of Joseph, Gajarsa, McDermott and Reiner. He practices corporate law, international trade, commercial litigation and the representation of Native American tribes.
Garland has coordinated the Justice Department’s prosecution in the Oklahoma City bombing case. The principal associate deputy attorney general serves as senior adviser and chief of staff for Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick.