Confirm Inga Bernstein for the District of Massachusetts
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On July 30, 2015, President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaReport: FCC chair to push for complete repeal of net neutrality Right way and wrong way Keystone XL pipeline clears major hurdle despite recent leak MORE nominated Inga Bernstein, a longtime private practitioner, for a judicial vacancy on the District of Massachusetts. Bernstein is a well qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenCordray's legacy of consumer protection worth defending Booker tries to find the right lane  Jones raised 0K a day after first Moore accusers came forward: report MORE and Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySenate Democrats introduce bill to block Trump's refugee ban FCC votes to limit program funding internet access for low-income communities Two GOP senators oppose Trump’s EPA chemical safety nominee MORE. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Bernstein on May 19, 2016 without dissent. Nonetheless, she languished on the floor ever since, mainly due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow her confirmation debate and vote. Because Ms. Bernstein is an experienced, moderate nominee and the District of Massachusetts needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must swiftly hold her final debate and vote.

The District presently has one vacancy in thirteen active judgeships. This means that the court lacks eight percent of its active judicial complement, which complicates efforts to expeditiously, inexpensively and fairly decide cases. Because criminal prosecutions take precedence under the Speedy Trial Act, litigants engaged in civil litigation encounter problems securing trial dates and concluding their disputes. Resolving cases without all of the judgeships authorized concomitantly imposes greater pressure on the court’s judges.

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On July 30, 2015, the president nominated Bernstein. Obama praised her excellent legal career, declaring that she has displayed an “unwavering commitment to justice and integrity” and expressing confidence that Bernstein would “serve the American people well.” The White House press release observed that Bernstein has specialized in criminal law and employment litigation for two decades at Zalkind, Duncan and Bernstein.

However, the Judiciary Committee only conducted Bernstein’s hearing on April 20. The Massachusetts senators introduced her at the session, praised Bernstein’s strong qualifications, and called for prompt Senate confirmation. That hearing progressed smoothly, and the members who posed questions appeared satisfied with Bernstein’s responses. On May 19, the panel reported her on a voice vote with minimal discussion and no controversy.

Since May, Bernstein languished in the Senate waiting for a debate and vote. The Republican leadership contended that it was returning the upper chamber to “regular order.” However, Bernstein and numerous other very qualified, mainstream nominees waited months for debates and ballots. Sens. Warren and Markey sought a prompt floor vote, yet Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock McConnell PAC demands Moore return its money Klobuchar taking over Franken's sexual assault bill MORE (R-Ky.), the Majority Leader, refused to set it. Warren and other Democratic senators requested unanimous consent to vote on Bernstein and nineteen remaining district nominees who need floor votes, but the GOP objected. If Republicans had followed regular order, Bernstein would have secured a final ballot long ago. However on Dec. 10, the Senate adjourned until the new Congress assembled on Jan. 3 when her nomination expired. Now that it has convened, Obama needs to swiftly renominate Bernstein, the committee should rapidly reapprove the nominee and the Senate must confirm her.

It is past time for the Senate to vote on Inga Bernstein. She is a strong, consensus nominee whom both Massachusetts senators support. Moreover, the District needs all of its active judges to deliver justice. The District’s judiciary as well as people and businesses litigating in federal court deserve a full bench, while Bernstein merits a final vote. Thus, senators must immediately approve her.

Carl Tobias is the Williams Chair in Law at the University of Richmond.


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.