On Wednesday the Senate confirmed Judge Joseph Bianco to be President Trump’s 38th judge of the United States Courts of Appeals. Since 2006, Judge Bianco has served as a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of New York, where he was confirmed by voice vote and with the support of Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) fourteen years ago. Once so noncontroversial that he did not even require a recorded vote, Judge Bianco somehow managed to become so controversial in the intervening years that he was confirmed this week by a near party-line vote. Controversial on what basis? Because Senator Schumer says so.
Indeed, without citing any evidence whatsoever and ignoring Judge Bianco’s “well-qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, Schumer issued the following statement after Bianco and fellow Second Circuit nominee Michael Park were voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee along party lines in March:
Another day, another partisan push by Senate Republicans for hard-right nominees to get lifetime appointments on the federal bench . . . Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans voted to advance the nominations of Michael Park and Joseph Bianco for the Second Circuit, despite objections from Senator Gillibrand and me.
The same Chuck Schumer who said in November 2005 while introducing Bianco at his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that he was a “great, great guy” and that he was “proud to support someone as outstandingly qualified and well respected as Mr. Bianco” apparently changed his mind when President Trump decided to elevate Judge Bianco to the Second Circuit. Just another day in the Senate Democrats’ obstruct-at-all-costs approach to judicial nominations, a resistance effort that has only intensified since Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle.
Judge Bianco’s case proves that Senate Democrats are now more than comfortable openly flaunting their disrespect for the White House’s good-faith consultation process that produced consensus circuit court nominees from states represented by Senate Democrats including Illinois (twice), Michigan, Hawaii, New Mexico, Indiana, North Dakota, and even New York, with the relatively easy confirmation of another former district judge, Richard Sullivan.
What’s more, in addition to Schumer and Senate Democrats’ post-Kavanaugh non-engagement with the White House, we are now seeing a recurring bad-faith trend regarding their treatment of sitting district judges they previously recommended to Republican presidents. District judges who were previously considered non-controversial are now assailed as partisan hacks by the same home-state Senate Democrats who helped them ascend to the bench in the first place. The latest example is current U.S. District Judge Peter Phipps, President Trump’s newest nominee to the Third Circuit announced last week. Just over a year ago, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced Phipps to the Committee as a jointly recommended nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. With the help of Senator Toomey, Senator Casey shepherded him to a voice vote out of Committee and to a unanimous confirmation vote by the full U.S. Senate in October. In supporting his nomination to the U.S. District Court last April, Senator Casey praised Judge Phipps’s “academic record . . . experience . . . temperament . . . character, and of course . . . commitment to the rule of law. I think Peter Phipps does well on all of those criteria.”