University of Pittsburgh

Arthur Hellman on Close Confirmation Votes for Two Judicial Nominees

Publish Date/Time: 
April 8, 2014

Pitt Law Professor Arthur Hellman commented in The Legal Intelligencer on the surprisingly close Senate votes to confirm two of President Obama’s nominees for the federal district court in Philadelphia. One of the nominees had run as a pro-life candidate for Congress in the mid-1990s; the other had supported gun control legislation in the late 1990s. Hellman noted that the two issues—abortion and gun control—rarely come before a district court judge; “a judge could go an entire career without handling an abortion case” or a gun case, he said. But, he added, trial judges do decide whether to grant preliminary injunctions when they are faced with those kinds of cases, which changes the status quo for a period of time.

Hellman also pointed out that the “no” votes might have been predicated on concerns about the nominees’ approach to legal issues that go beyond the two hot-button issues. He said that some senators might see the judges’ positions on those issues as being “reflective of a larger worldview.”

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