President Obama’s judicial nominee facing the longest confirmation delay is Marisa Demeo, nominated to be a judge on the D.C. Superior Court. These judges are “usually approved by the Senate without generating controversy.” However, even though Obama nominated Demeo on March 24 and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs endorsed her on May 20, she still has not won confirmation because Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is blocking her.
The National Law Journal (subscription required) reports that conservative objections seem to be based on her strong legal advocacy work on Hispanic and LGBT issues. Demeo has an accomplished legal career, working for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, as an assistant U.S. attorney, and most recently as a D.C. magistrate judge since 2007. She also was a lawyer and lobbyist for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and as an openly gay woman, has been a member of the Human Rights Campaign and co-president of GAYLAW. From the National Law Journal:
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who frequently delays Obama nominees, said he is holding up Demeo’s nomination in his role as chairman of the Senate Republican Steering Committee, a caucus of conservative senators. “A number of Republicans had concerns and asked me, as chairman of Steering, to ask for limited debate and a recorded vote because of a history of very leftist activism,” he said.
DeMint said he had reviewed Demeo’s record as recently as Jan. 27 and found it unacceptable. Asked in a brief interview for specific criticisms, he said “it’s a lot more” than Demeo’s work for MALDEF but he declined to give details. “There are just a number of things that don’t look like a fair and balanced approach that you’d like in a judge,” he said. A spokesman for DeMint later declined to elaborate.
DeMint’s block on Demeo is incredibly hypocritical, considering what he said in 2005:
One of my goals as a Senator is to confirm highly qualified judges by ensuring timely up-or-down votes for all nominees no matter who is President, no matter which party is in the majority. That is my commitment, and I have encouraged Senator Frist to consider all options, including the constitutional option, to end the undemocratic blockade of judicial nominees. Senators were elected to advise and consent, not to grandstand and obstruct.
I would like to say something to my colleagues across the aisle. There is a reason George W. Bush was elected to serve as President of the United States. It is because the majority of Americans trusted him to nominate judges.
DeMint also opposed Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination for the Supreme Court, saying that he didn’t like her using the term “wise Latina” and was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to “decide cases based on the law and not her personal views.” During the confirmation process, the right wing equated Sotomayor’s affiliation with the National Council of La Raza with being a member of “a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses.”
Democrats have paired Demeo’s confirmation with that of Stuart Nash, who was first nominated by President Bush and received the Senate committee’s support in July. D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee Satterfield has said that if Demeo and Nash aren’t confirmed within months, there will be a dire situation” for the court. “[S]uch a scenario would certainly test our ability to administer justice for the people of the District of Columbia in a timely fashion,” said Satterfield.
— Research assistance provided by DJ Carella