By: Denise M. Champagne//December 13, 2012
By: Denise M. Champagne//December 13, 2012//
Monroe County Court Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr.’s nomination for a federal court judgeship was confirmed today by the Senate, nearly five months after it was approved by the Judiciary Committee.
The confirmation came by voice vote about 2:45 p.m. Judge Geraci will serve in Rochester on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, filling the vacancy of Judge David G. Larimer who was elevated to senior status in March 2009, but is still hearing cases.
Before the vote, Judge Geraci was highly praised by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-NY, who recommended him for nomination in February.
Schumer reviewed Judge Geraci’s extensive qualifications which include being an assistant U.S. attorney, assistant district attorney in Monroe County and serving as a certified mediator and defense attorney.
Schumer, who has served on the Judiciary Committee his entire time in the Senate said he has rarely, if ever, encountered a candidate with the combined qualifications of Judge Geraci, whom he also noted is legendary for his dedication to his community.
Schumer also reminded Senators that the vacancy Judge Geraci was being considered for is one of several classified as judicial emergencies, meaning the judgeship has a heavy caseload, has been vacant for more than 18 months or there is only one active judge.
Confirmations of federal judgeships, stalled or slowly moving throughout much of President Barack Obama’s first term, have been moving again since the Nov. 6 election.
Six judges have been confirmed since the lame duck session began Nov. 13, according to Glenn Sugameli, senior attorney for Defenders of Wildlife and founder and director of Judging the Environment, who has been closely following the federal judiciary for more than a decade.
“I think they’re finally moving, at least on the District Court nominees,” he said, noting Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who opposed many nominations when they came before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, has said he expects a lot of nominees to be confirmed.
Sugameli said Judge Geraci has been rated very well qualified and received broad support.
“There’s no reason he should not have been confirmed a long time ago,” he said.
Lee was the lone objector to Judge Geraci’s nomination, but Lee has expressed voice opposition in committee to most nominees, until recently, as a blanket opposition to President Barack Obama’s making recess appointments during the holiday recess at the end of 2011 into January.
Judge Geraci’s nomination was also supported by the New York’s junior Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, was vocal on the matter again this week when the committee met to consider four new nominees.
He noted 18 nominations were still pending on the Senate calendar and urged the Senate to clear the backlog.
“We will not begin to approach the 205 confirmations we achieved during President [George W.] Bush’s first term by the end of this president’s first term,” Leahy said Wednesday. “Nor, will we reduce vacancies significantly. President Obama may be the first president to end his first term with higher judicial vacancies — due solely to obstruction — than when he became president.”
He said the Judiciary Committee and a Democratic majority in the Senate worked to clear more than two dozen of Bush’s nominees within two weeks of their hearings to help respond to a judicial vacancy crisis plaguing federal courts at that time.
“The Senate has been processing judicial nominations at a pace consistent with past practice, including some this week and last,” according to a GOP Senate aide.
There will be another vacancy in the Western District of New York as of Saturday when Judge Charles J. Siragusa assumes senior status, leaving no active judges in the Rochester division of the district. Judge Michael A. Telesca, who also still hears cases, has been on senior status since 1996. His “vacancy” was filled by Judge Siragusa.
“Most of the ones that are still pending are judicial emergencies,” said Sugameli. “There’s no reason not to fill those seats. The obstruction has gotten to the point where it’s just meaningless.”
Sugameli said there is also mounting pressure to get nominations confirmed with letters sent to the Senate by the federal and American bar associations and newspaper editorials throughout the country calling for action.
“There’s been a lot of commentary around the country saying this is an example of mindless obstruction and just vote; just do it,” Sugameli said.