Daily Report: U.S. Hispanic Caucus Urges Lopez Confirmation
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus in Washington on Friday called on Republican U.S. senators, including Johnny Isakson and David Perdue of Georgia, to stop blocking the nominations of four federal judicial nominees, including DeKalb County State Court Judge Dax Lopez.
Saying that Republicans "are playing politics" with the judicial system, Rep. Linda T. Sanchez , D-California, the caucus chairwoman, urged the swift confirmation of four Latinos whose nominations to federal benches have been pending for more than 120 days.
The four nominees include Lopez, whom President Barack Obama nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia last July; Felipe Restrepo, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; John Michael Vazquez to the U.S. District Court in New Jersey; and Armando Bonilla to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington.
"It's time for Senate Republicans to stop delaying and confirm the pending nominees," said Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, in a public statement released by the Hispanic Caucus. The four whose nominations are pending are all "respected members of the legal community who are more than qualified to sit on the bench," he said. "It's important for our judges and the judicial system to reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. Leaving judicial nominees in limbo is a disservice to the overburdened legal system and to the people in their communities who are waiting patiently for their day in court."
Rep. Ben Ray Luján, a New Mexico Democrat, said, "It's time for Senate Republicans to allow a vote to fill these important positions."
The Daily Report has contacted spokeswomen for Isakson and Perdue seeking comment and is awaiting their replies.
The Hispanic Caucus's public statement of support for the Latino judicial nominees echoes statements made by Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Last week, Reid accused Senate Republicans of "blocking every Latino judicial nominee currently being considered," including Lopez, whom Reid said "would make history as the first Hispanic lifetime-appointed federal judge" in Georgia.
In September, Leahy accused Republicans of having "virtually shut down the confirmation process" and urged them to break the apparent impasse by confirming several judicial nominees—including Lopez—who have received the support of the Hispanic National Bar Association.
Neither Isakson nor Perdue have returned blue slips to the Senate Judiciary Committee signaling their support of Lopez's confirmation. Lopez was nominated July 30 to fill a vacancy on the federal bench in Atlanta. Blue slips are a form of senatorial courtesy—although not a rule—by which senators allow a presidential nomination from their state to go forward. The Senate Judiciary Committee generally does not schedule confirmation hearings until home state senators have returned blue slips on a nominee.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, a spokeswoman told the Daily Report that Perdue, a Judiciary Committee member, had not returned his blue slip for Lopez because he had not yet met the nominee. Spokeswoman Caroline Vanvick did not say why Perdue had not yet met Lopez or whether he intends to do so. Perdue's first cousin, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, appointed Lopez to the DeKalb bench in 2010.
Isakson's spokeswoman did not respond to the Daily Report's inquiries about a Lopez blue slip.
While Lopez has garnered support from a number of prominent Georgia Republicans, his nomination has also drawn opposition stemming from his longtime position as a board member of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO). Although Lopez resigned from the board shortly after he was nominated, GALEO's support of comprehensive immigration reform, its objection to a federal program used to identify and deport undocumented workers, and its decision to team up with the ACLU to challenge Georgia's 2010 immigration law led Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway and Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren in September to send letters to Isakson and Perdue asking them not to support Lopez. Phil Kent, a member of Deal's Immigration Enforcement Review Board, also blasted Lopez's nomination less than a week after the president announced it.