A hearing on the nomination of Buffalo attorney Lawrence J. Vilardo to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York is scheduled for Wednesday.
Vilardo, a founding partner of the law firm Connors & Vilardo LLP, will be one of four candidates interviewed by the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, beginning at 2:15 p.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.
Vilardo is being considered for the seat being vacated by Judge Richard J. Arcara, who was elevated to senior status on Jan. 3. Vilardo was recommended for the post in mid-August by U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer and nominated by President Barack Obama on Feb. 5.
Schumer also recommended Denise E. O’Donnell, another attorney from Buffalo, for a position on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, but nothing has happened since her name was submitted to the president in late June and neither Schumer’s office, nor the White House will comment.
O’Donnell currently serves in the Obama administration as director of Justice Assistance in the U.S. Department of Justice. She is being considered to replace Judge William M. Skretny, who assumed senior status on March 8, turning over the chief judge position to Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr.
With Judges Arcara and Skretny being elevated to senior status, the federal court in Buffalo is left without any active judges. Judge Geraci is assigned to Rochester, along with Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford.
The hearing Wednesday is the first judicial nominee hearing in about two months, according to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee.
“We have a number of well-qualified nominees waiting for a hearing,” Leahy told the committee last Thursday, noting it was unfortunate no judicial nominees were on the agenda for that executive business meeting. “Five of the pending judicial nominees were nominated over five months ago, including three who will fill judicial emergency vacancies.”
Committee Chair Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said he would rather not get into the history of how President George W. Bush’s nominees were treated versus Obama’s; that he’d rather have a private discussion with Leahy on judges.
Also being considered at the hearing will be New York State Supreme Court Justice Ann Donnelly and attorney LaShann DeArcy Hall, both for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York; and U.S. Magistrate Dale A. Drozd for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
Those three judgeships are classified as judicial emergencies, meaning the court has a heavy caseload or the position has been vacant for at least 18 months in a court with moderate-to-heavy caseloads.
According to the courts’ website (www.uscourts.gov), there were 12 nominees pending for 42 District Court vacancies as of Monday.