Monday, January 24, 2022

Dick Durbin to the GOP: it’s our turn to approve court candidates without your consent

The Democratic Senate Judicial Committee chairman on Wednesday opened the first-of-year candidacy hearing with a message to Republicans: We are moving forward with one of the judicial elections for President Joe Biden without your consent, and that’s because you did it to us. …

Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois has scheduled a hearing in the case of Andre Mathis, whom Biden chose for life in the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Durbin acknowledged that both Senators from Mathis’s home state, Tennessee GOP Senator Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, are opposed to his nomination, and signaled this by not handing over his so-called bills to the committee.

In the past, there was a tradition in the Senate that the Judicial Committee, in the name of collegiality, did not nominate a judge until both senators from that candidate’s home state presented a blue piece of paper signaling their agreement. But Republicans ignored this tradition for appellate candidates when Donald Trump was president and when the Republican Party controlled the Senate – 18 times to be precise – which resulted in 17 of those candidates passing through the committee and receiving confirmation against Democratic objections.

You reap what you sow, Durbin basically said on Wednesday.

“The Republicans have decided to abandon this senatorial courtesy,” said the Illinois Democrat. “Simply put, there shouldn’t be one set of rules for Republican candidates under a Republican president and a different set of rules for candidates under a different president.”

This did not stop Blackburn from complaining. She said the Biden White House “made it clear that they intend to exclude the role of home state senators in the nomination process,” and said there was “no meaningful consultation” with the White House in selecting Mathis.

The White House challenged the idea that there were no meaningful consultations with Blackburn and Hagerty prior to the Mathis hearing.

“We have been delighted to be discussing potential sixth district candidates with both Tennessee Senators’ offices starting a few months ago and have enthusiastically embraced the historic appointment of Andre Mathis,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said. “The White House regularly consults with state senators on both sides of the aisle regarding vacancies in their states and will continue to do so in good faith.”

A cursory review of history reveals that Blackburn has consistently voted to approve Trump’s nominations in court of appeal, which did not have the blue blanks handed in by Democratic senators. Since she became a Senator in 2019, Blackburn has voted all 14 Trump elections in the Court of Appeal that lacked blue forms. In all cases, she voted in favor both at the procedural step to proceed and at the final confirmation.

Blackburn also voted to approve these candidates, despite objections from state Democratic senators who argued that the White House had not consulted constructively with them on their candidacy.

“The Republicans have decided to give up this senatorial courtesy,” said Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois, of Biden’s promotion to the Court of Appeals without blue cards from senators in the state where the candidate resides.

Aaron Bernstein via Reuters

Biden confirmed a huge number of judicial candidates since taking office, many of which are diverse and historic firsts on the federal bench. But Mathis, now a partner at law firm Butler Snow LLP in Memphis, was the first to leave Biden with two Republican senators and no support from his home state senators.

If confirmed, Mathis, 41, will become the first black in Tennessee’s 6th arrondissement.

In addition to her protests over the trial, Blackburn said she had “serious concerns” about Mathis’ lack of experience, noting that he was never a judge or appeared in a federal appeals court. Mathis has been practicing law for nearly 14 years with a focus on commercial litigation and has done significant pro bono work for the Tennessee Innocence Project.

She also said that Mathis has “a criminal record with a huge list of charges, including numerous failures to appear in court.” What Blackburn called a criminal record was actually just three speeding tickets that Mathis received over 10 years ago, one of which was for speeding five miles. His driver’s license was temporarily suspended when he failed to pay or take it to court.

Mathis said that he simply forgot to pay for the tickets and did not know that his license was suspended until he received a notice in the mail, after which he paid them.

“In Tennessee, we expect our judges to respect the law,” said the Tennessee Republican. “If Mr. Mathis used to think he was above the law, imagine how he would behave if he was approved as a federal judge.”

Blackburn did not mention that it was only last year that she was stopped by the Capitol police while she was driving, got out of the car, told the officer that she was a U.S. Senator and flashed her pin of Congress before letting go.

Durbin disagreed with Blackburn’s focus on Mathis’ driving experience.

“Sep. Blackburn is referring to your “criminal record,” as she called it, ”he told Mathis. “Well, if speeding tickets are a criminal record, I have one too. I have never received a five-mile speeding ticket, which appears to be one of your fines … We were all, I think, guilty of this sin, and perhaps we all have convictions exceeding six miles or more.

Asked by Senator John F. Kennedy, RR Louisiana, about his professional experience, Mathis said he has significant litigation experience and has heard 23 appeals from state courts, with one case currently pending in the Court of Appeals. United States Court for the 6th Circuit. … He said that he was the primary compiler of the vast majority of the appeals he has dealt with, and has appeared in 10 cases in the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Andres Mathis, Biden's candidate for the 6th U.S. District Court of Appeals, testifies before the Senate Judicial Committee at a hearing on Capitol Hill.
Andres Mathis, Biden’s candidate for the 6th U.S. District Court of Appeals, testifies before the Senate Judicial Committee at a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Elisabeth Franz via Reuters

Senator Corey Booker (DN.J.), who joined the hearing later, said he “almost laughed” when he learned that Blackburn referred to Mathis’ driving history and called it a “rating.”

“I laughed with my staff that I now have a criminal record, probably much longer than the witnesses,” Booker said, describing his experience as the first black family to move to his New Jersey area as a child.

“I was stopped several times more than [my white friends] we. We all knew what it was about, ”he said. “My brother and I used to think, ‘If we’re black, you’re just preparing to be stopped.’ Sometimes I was stopped for speeding three miles, for something cracked or something wrong with my car. “

Booker asked Mathis if he had encountered “driving in black” as a child.

“I take responsibility for my actions. I don’t want to blame anything or anyone else for what I did, ”Mathis said. – Here’s what I will say about this.

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