Confirm Inga Bernstein for the District of Massachusetts
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On July 30, 2015, President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaOvernight Energy: Dems ask Pruitt to justify first-class travel | Obama EPA chief says reg rollback won't stand | Ex-adviser expects Trump to eventually rejoin Paris accord Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand Ex-US ambassador: Mueller is the one who is tough on Russia 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 WarrenTrump's SEC may negate investors' ability to fight securities fraud Schatz's ignorance of our Anglo-American legal heritage illustrates problem with government Dems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee MORE and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyRegulators seek to remove barriers to electric grid storage Markey, Paul want to know if new rules are helping opioid treatment Oil spill tax on oil companies reinstated as part of budget deal 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.

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 McConnellLawmakers feel pressure on guns Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urge action on Export-Import Bank nominees Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure 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.