A Senate vote for courtesy

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

SENATORS should show some goodwill for the holidays by approving pending executive and judicial nominations, some of which have languished for months.

Among those who should be confirmed without controversy are the seven nominees for U.S. attorney, including the top federal prosecutor for Detroit, and the five nominees for U.S. marshal, including those for Massachusetts, Minnesota and Georgia.

Senators of both parties have for some years been stingy about approving court of appeals nominees picked by the other party. But there are no legitimate reasons to withhold confirmation for two highly qualified, seasoned professionals.

Beverly Baldwin Martin is a sitting federal trial judge in Georgia who earned a unanimous well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association when she was nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Judge Martin was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a favorable recommendation on Sept. 10. Also deserving of confirmation is Joseph A. Greenaway Jr., a former prosecutor and sitting federal judge in New Jersey who was nominated to the 3rd Circuit. Judge Greenaway also earned the ABA's highest rating and was given a thumbs up by the judiciary panel, but has been waiting for a floor vote for nearly three months.

Perhaps the greatest nominations travesty, however, is the one involving Dawn E. Johnsen's selection to head the Justice Department's influential Office of Legal Counsel. Ms. Johnsen was nominated early in President Obama's term and received a favorable vote from the Judiciary Committee in March. Ms. Johnsen has been blasted by some as too liberal on abortion issues, but abortion would not regularly factor into her DOJ job. Besides, even if it did, the president should be given deference in choosing executive-branch officials who share his views. Ms. Johnsen is highly qualified and should be confirmed. At the very least, senators should have the decency to give her an up-or-down vote.

They should extend the same courtesy to two other highly qualified Justice Department nominees who have been kept in limbo for five and six months, respectively: Christopher H. Schroeder, the president's pick to head the Office of Legal Policy, and Mary L. Smith, tapped to lead the tax division.

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