Monroe County District Attorney Michael Green still has a few hurdles to clear before becoming a federal judge, but scaled a major one with a nomination from President Barack Obama.
“I have a tremendous amount of trial experience,” he said when first recommended by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-NY, last year. “Most certainly, being a judge is different, but I know how a trial should run and I know how a case should be handled. As a district attorney, we’re not solely an advocate for a client. Our job is to do justice. That’s something that will help in making the transition to the bench.”
If approved by the Senate, Green would serve the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York in Rochester.
“We’re very pleased with the fact that president Obama has nominated Mike Green to be a federal judge in the Western District of New York,” said Judge William M. Skretny, the district’s chief judge, sitting in Buffalo.
Skretny said he has no idea when the confirmation process will be completed, but that he is “confident that Mike Green will go through with flying colors.”
Schumer, whose recommendation has been pending action by the president since last summer, suggested Green to fill a vacancy created when U.S. District Judge David G. Larimer assumed senior status in March 2009.
“Mike Green has had a distinguished legal career, is even handed and insightful and will make a terrific judge,” Schumer said in a press release. “Mike Green has been an outstanding, moderate and supremely professional figure in law enforcement for more than two decades. He has a top-notch legal mind and will make a superb addition to the bench.”
Green served as an assistant district attorney for 17 years before being elected top prosecutor in 2003 to replace retiring District Attorney Howard Relin.
Under Relin, Green was responsible for all homicide prosecutions in Monroe County for three years. He has also been capital crimes prosecutor, a trial attorney and deputy chief of the Major Felony Bureau and chief of the DWI Bureau.
“I know there’s been some talk that primarily his experience is in the criminal law area, but I don’t see that as a major downside,” Judge Skretny said. “From what I hear with the quality of his intellect and the commitment that he brings to the judgeship, I think the intensity of addressing civil cases and civil issues will make him a very capable judge in a very short period of time.”
Green has also focused on improving law enforcement across the country and served as a faculty member for the National College of District Attorneys at the National Advocacy Center. He also has lectured for the New York Prosecutors Training Institute, the Monroe County Bar Association, the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, the Monroe County Criminal Justice Training Center, the New York State Law Enforcement Training Directors, the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators and many others.
In addition, Green has worked with the Boys and Girls club to promote literacy and served on boards for Families and Friends of Murdered Children and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“He has spent his life protecting our children, our families and our property and has been an absolute pillar of the community,” said Schumer, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will next consider Green’s nomination. “For over 20 years Mike Green has served the people of the Western District, protecting children, families and victims of crimes.”
Green is also supported by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, another fellow Democrat.
“I am pleased President Obama has nominated Monroe County District Attorney Mike Green for the Western District Court of New York,” Gillibrand said in a statement Thursday. “Through his many years in the district attorney’s office, Mike has proven to be a tough but fair prosecutor with exceptional knowledge of the law. His dedication to public service is evident and he will be an asset to the federal bench.”
Now all New York’s two senators need to do is forward “blue slips” to the Senate Judiciary Committee to sign off on Green’s nomination, according to Erica J. Chabot, the committee’s majority press secretary.
Chabot said the first step is for Green to submit a questionnaire required of all judicial nominees. Once that is received, along with paperwork from Schumer and Gillibrand, Green’s name can be added to the nomination queue to be scheduled for a hearing before the Judiciary Committee.
“At any given time, we have several nominations pending,” Chabot said, noting the length of time to continue the process will depend on when the materials are submitted. “We process them as quickly as we can,” she said.
Green will have to appear before the committee in Washington, D.C., and answer questions put to him by members. Chabot said after the hearing, which can last from one to three hours or more, the record remains open for a week during which members may submit additional questions for nominees to answer.
Once the committee is satisfied, it can put the matter on the agenda for an executive business meeting, usually conducted weekly on Thursdays. If a majority votes in favor of the nomination, it can be forwarded to the full Senate for a vote. If the full Senate agrees, the nomination is confirmed.
If confirmed, Judge Skretny said Green will then receive instruction in procedural and substantive law in criminal and civil cases.
“It’s a crash course in judging — ‘Baby Judges School,’ as we call it,” Judge Skretny said, noting Green’s joining the bench will also allow Judge Larimer to cut back somewhat on his caseload.
Senior status allows a judge to serve on a part-time basis, but Judge Skretny said Judge Larimer has maintained a full-time schedule in the congested Western District of New York as a courtesy to his colleagues.
“We’re confident that Judge Larimer will contribute fully to the best of his ability,” Judge Skretny said. “We are in serious need of his services. It would be a major loss to our full court if he did not continue on the bench with his experience and with his abilities to continue judging in the federal district.”
Chabot said even if the nomination is not approved by a Senate majority, it will remain pending in the committee until withdrawn or the Congress expires.
“It has been a very long time since a nomination was voted down in the Judiciary Committee,” Chabot said. “It didn’t happen at all in the last Congress.”
The 112th Congress, just convened Jan. 3, will end Jan. 3, 2013. In fact, the Senate has yet to organize under the new Congress, although Chabot doesn’t expect the makeup of the Judiciary Committee to change much.
She did say she doesn’t expect it to have 19 members as it does now, 12 Democrats and seven Republicans, held over from the 111th Congress. Chabot said there is usually a lot of continuity within the committee.
The Democrats still hold a majority in the Senate, although it was reduced in the November mid-term elections.
Obama’s nominations also included another New Yorker — J. Paul Oaken, vice president and associate general counsel of Cablevision Systems Corp. — for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District, a Texas woman, two Georgia women and a woman from the commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.
“Throughout their careers, these distinguished men and women have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to public service,” Obama said in a release. “I am confident they will serve the American people with distinction from the District Court bench.”