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Confirm Jerry Blackwell to the Minnesota federal district bench

The U.S. Senate must promptly appoint nominee Jerry Blackwell to the U. S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Blackwell, whom President Biden nominated on June 15, supplies valuable experience. Blackwell has impressively excelled in law’s upper echelon over 35 years, and he recently participated in the highly successful prosecution of Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd. The vacancy that the nominee would ably fill has been open for 11 months. Thus, the Senate needs to rapidly confirm Blackwell.

The vacancy materialized on New Year’s Eve 2021, when District of Minnesota Judge Susan Richard Nelson assumed senior status following more than a decade of professional service on the powerful tribunal. Judge Nelson had graciously notified Biden considerably earlier that she plainly intended to become a senior jurist. Democratic Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith relied on a process which duly suggested talented, mainstream candidates for President Biden’s review. The senators dutifully assembled experienced practitioners who swiftly canvassed, interviewed, and rated copious applicants. Earlier this year, the vetters directly recommended a few very qualified candidates, notably Blackwell and two others.When the president tapped Blackwell, Klobuchar declared that he “is widely respected and loved within the Minnesota legal community [,while the nominee’s] trial experience – including the successful prosecution of the murder of George Floyd – makes him an excellent choice” as a new district judge. She anticipated cooperating with numerous Republicans and Democrats to confirm the prospect. Smith analogously remarked that Blackwell’s 35 years of experience mean that the nominee is “exceptionally well-qualified” to be a district jurist. 

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who had picked Blackwell to be a special assistant attorney general when prosecuting the Floyd case, lauded him as “brilliant, thoughtful and fair [and could not imagine anyone] better qualified.” Blackwell even carefully secured the first pardon throughout state history for a posthumous individual, Max Mason — a Black employee, whom the all-white jury convicted of raping a white woman in 1920 — although the state did muster no evidence of the putative crime. The senators in turn persuasively recommended Mr. Blackwell to the chief executive this spring.

He is a very ethical, intelligent, and diligent nominee, who possesses reasoned temperament. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune praised the nominee’s “deep well of experience litigating civil cases for several major companies,” namely 3M, before tribunals of 40-plus states and overseas. He captured a unanimous well qualified rating, which is preeminent, from the ABA Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary. Blackwell prominently exhibited those attributes when testifying in a July 27 committee hearing, and panel members seemed pleased by his clear, nuanced answers. On Sept. 15, the committee discussed Blackwell’s abilities, reporting the prospect on a 13-8 vote.

Other ideas show why the Senate must expeditiously appoint Blackwell. First, Judge Nelson’s vacancy has been open for 11 months. Second, in the past spring, Klobuchar and Smith proposed Blackwell to Biden. Requiring that selections and nominees wait prolonged times can unfairly mean that the individuals need to leave their careers and lives on hold. This could be salient for Blackwell, as he presently engages in copious difficult representations. Third, the long vacancy ostensibly makes Judge Nelson and her colleagues assume large dockets, even though numerous senior jurists manage fewer lawsuits. Judge Nelson has continued maintaining and deciding a heavy case load, which allows the tribunal to keep promptly, inexpensively, and equitably resolving a substantial docket. Litigants, counsel, and citizens are clearly indebted to the experienced jurist for her rigorous ongoing service. However, the delay and partisan conflicts among senators which have left Nelson’s opening vacant can be rather inequitable to the dedicated public servant who professionally earned a senior judgeship plenty of months ago.

On Thursday, Blackwell earned a 54-42 cloture ballot. Thus, when the Senate returns next week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) needs to expeditiously proffer a floor debate and rapid vote, which confirms Blackwell for the Minnesota District vacancy that has remained open so long. The nominee’s distinguished record plainly means that he warrants speedy appointment, while Blackwell’s consummate abilities will permit the district to continue swiftly, economically, and fairly resolving the tribunal’s huge case load. 

Carl Tobias is the William Chair in Law at the University of Richmond

Tags Amy Klobuchar Biden Jerry blackwell

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