WASHINGTON – President Obama on Thursday renominated a lawyer from Cape Elizabeth and more than 30 other people whose candidacies for federal judgeships were, in many cases, stalled by election-year politics.
William Kayatta was nominated early last year for a seat on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. Kayatta received a bipartisan endorsement from the Senate Judiciary Committee, but his nomination has yet to be considered by the full Senate.
The nation’s 12 circuit courts, one step below the U.S. Supreme Court, are the final stop for most cases appealed from federal district courts, because few cases reach the Supreme Court. The 1st Circuit Court, based in Boston, handles cases from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico.
With six full-time judges, the 1st Circuit is the smallest circuit court. Kayatta, a partner at the Pierce Atwood law firm in Portland, would replace Judge Kermit Lipez of Maine.
Republican leaders have invoked a rule — used by both parties over the years — in which one side blocks some federal judicial nominations, typically before a presidential election.
Dubbed the Thurmond Rule by many, the strategy is a way for a party to delay filling judicial vacancies in hopes that their presidential candidate will win the election and nominate someone of their party’s choosing.
Obama renominated 33 candidates, insisting that many of them should have been confirmed before the Senate adjourned. Because Thursday was the first day of the new Congress, the nominees will need endorsements again from the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Several have been awaiting a vote for more than six months, even though they all enjoy bipartisan support,” Obama said in a prepared statement. “I urge the Senate to consider and confirm these nominees without delay.”
Maine’s Sen. Olympia Snowe, who retired Thursday, and Sen. Susan Collins had pressed their Republican colleagues to confirm Kayatta before the election and since. On Thursday, Collins urged the Senate to move quickly on his renomination.
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