Obama's Out Judicial Nominees: Two Moving Forward, One Stalled

Posted by Chris Geidner
July 15, 2011 5:50 PM |

gaynoms.jpg[Photo: Alison Nathan, Edward DuMont and J. Paul Oetken -- all out LGBT attorneys -- have been nominated for federal judgeships by President Obama.]

For President Barack Obama's out LGBT judicial nominees, two of the three -- both of whom formerly worked in the White House under a Democratic administration -- have seen their nominations move forward with relative ease and speed. The third -- the first out gay appellate judicial nominee in the country's history -- has not.

On Thursday, July 14, the Senate Judiciary Committee favorably reported the nominations of several judicial nominees to the full Senate for a vote, including out lesbian attorney Alison Nathan, nominated in March to serve as a district court judge in the Southern District of New York.

Nathan, who previously served as a White House associate counsel, was nominated for the job by her former boss, President Barack Obama, and the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on her nomination on June 8.

Another of Obama's out judicial nominees, J. Paul Oetken, is set to have his nomination for a district court judgeship in the same district considered by the full Senate on Monday, Jul 18. According to the Senate's announced schedule for the day, the Senate is due to convene at 2 p.m. to conduct business, including consideration of H.R.2055, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, before proceeding to consider Oetken's nomination to the Southern District of New York.

[UPDATE @ 2:30 PM MONDAY, JULY 18: The Senate is expected to begin the executive session required to consider Oetken's nomination at 5 p.m. The Senate vote is estimated to happen at 5:30 p.m. Watch the Senate live on C-SPAN.]

Oetken, nominated in January, would be the first out gay male judge approved for Senate confirmation. His nomination was referred to the full Senate on April 7 after a March 16 hearing.

Retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who presided over the Proposition 8 trial in 2010, told reporters earlier this year -- after his retirement -- that he is gay and is in a long-term relationship. U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Batts -- serving in the Southern District of New York -- was the first out LGBT federal judge in the country. A black lesbian, Batts was nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1994.

Like Nathan, Oetken is a former White House associate counsel, although he had served in the role in the '90s in the Clinton administration. At the time of his nomination, he was senior vice president and associate general counsel of Cablevision Systems Corporation.

Among Oetken's other work, he represented the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association in submitting its amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003. In the case, which resulted in striking down all sodomy laws in the nation, Oetken co-authored the brief with Chai Feldblum, who serves as a commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The third out nominee, Edward DuMont, has not seen his nomination proceed in a similar fashion to the nominations of Oetken or Nathan. Originally nominated by Obama in April 2010 to be an appellate judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, his nomination languished in the 111th Congress -- despite an American Bar Association rating of "unanimously well qualified" and a clerkship for Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. At the end of the session, his nomination was returned to the president, who renominated DuMont on Jan. 5 in the 112th Congress.

The Judiciary Committee has not scheduled a hearing for DuMont, and a committee spokesperson on July 14 had no further information about the nomination.


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