Dick Durbin for GOP: Our turn to confirm judge candidates without your consent

The Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee opened Wednesday’s first nomination hearing this year with a message to Republicans: We’re moving forward with one of President Joe Biden’s court elections without your consent, and that’s because you did this to us.

Late. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Scheduled the hearing for Andre Mathis, Biden’s choice for a life on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Durbin acknowledged that both of Mathis’ home state senators, the Tennessee GOP Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, are against his nomination and signaled the same by not submitting their so-called blue notes to the committee.

It used to be a Senate tradition that the Judiciary Committee in the name of collegiality would not promote a judge candidate until both senators from the nominee’s home state submitted a blue piece of paper signaling that they were involved. But Republicans ignored the tradition of nominees for the Court of Appeals when Donald Trump was president and when the GOP controlled the Senate – 18 times, to be exact – resulting in 17 of those nominees sailing through the committee and confirming Democratic objections.

What goes around comes around, Durbin basically said Wednesday.

“Republicans chose to give up this senatorial courtesy,” the Illinois Democrat said. “Simply put, there should not be one set of rules for Republican nominees under one Republican president and another set for nominees under another president.”

That did not stop Blackburn from complaining. She said Biden’s White House “has made it clear that they intend to eliminate the role of home state senators in the nomination process,” and said there was “no meaningful consultation” with the White House in its election of Mathis.

The White House challenged the idea that there were no meaningful consultations with Blackburn and Hagerty prior to Mathis’ hearing.

“We were grateful to discuss potential candidates for the Sixth Circuit with the offices of both Tennessee senators, which started several months ago and are excited about Andre Mathis’ historic nomination,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said. “The White House regularly consults with home state senators on both sides of the aisle regarding vacancies in their state and will continue to do so in good faith.”

A quick review of the story shows that Blackburn consistently voted to confirm Trump’s candidates for the appellate court, who did not have blue ballots filed by Democratic senators. Since becoming a senator in 2019, Blackburn has voted for all 14 of Trump’s appellate courts, which lack blue ballots. In all cases, she voted “yes” both on a procedural step to proceed and on the final confirmation.

Blackburn also voted to confirm these nominees over objections from home Democratic senators who claimed they had not been meaningfully consulted by the White House on their nominations.

Dick Durbin for GOP: Our turn to confirm judge candidates without your consent
“Republicans chose to abandon this senatorial courtesy,” Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Said of proceeding with Biden’s candidate for appeal without blue notes from the nominee’s home state senators.

Aaron Bernstein via Reuters

The bite has confirmed a large number of judge nominees since taking office, many of whom are diverse and historic firsts on the federal bench. But Mathis, who is currently a partner at law firm Butler Snow LLP in Memphis, is Biden’s first to advance from a state with two Republican senators and without the support of home state senators.

If confirmed, Mathis, 41, would be the first black man on the sixth circuit from Tennessee.

In addition to her protests over the process, Blackburn said she has “serious concerns” about Mathis’ lack of experience, noting that he has never been a judge or argued for a case in a federal appeals court. Mathis has been practicing law for about 14 years focusing on commercial litigation and has done significant pro bono work with the Tennessee Innocence Project.

She also said Mathis has “a rap sheet with a laundry list of quotes, including several omissions in appearing in court.” What Blackburn referred to as a rap sheet – a term for a criminal record – was actually just three speeding tickets that Mathis received more than 10 years ago, one of which was for driving five miles over the speed limit. His driver’s license was temporarily revoked as he did not pay them or go to court for them.

Mathis said he simply forgot to pay for the tickets and was not aware that his driver’s license had been suspended until he received a message in the mail after which he paid for them.

“In Tennessee, we expect our judges to respect the law,” the Tennessee Republican said. “If Mr Mathis previously thought he was above the law, imagine how he would behave if he were confirmed as a federal judge.”

Blackburn did not mention that it was only last year that she was stopped by the Capitol Police while driving in a car, got out of the car, informed the officer that she was a US senator and flashed with her congressional needle before they are released.

Durbin took issue with Blackburn’s attention to Mathis’ driving record.

“Sen. Blackburn refers to your ‘rap sheet,’ she called it,” he told Mathis. “Well, if speeding tickets are a rap sheet, then I have one too. I never got a speeding ticket for driving five miles over the border, which is apparently one of your tickets … We have all, I think, been guilty of that sin and maybe all have a rap sheet that is over six miles or more. “

Asked by Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) About his professional background, Mathis said he has significant legal experience and has processed 23 appeals for conclusion in state courts, where a case is currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. . He said he has been the primary preparer of briefs in the vast majority of appeals he has handled, and has argued for 10 cases before the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Andres Mathis, Biden's candidate for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing on Capitol Hill.
Andres Mathis, Biden’s candidate for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Elizabeth Frantz via Reuters

Late. Cory Booker (DN.J.), who attended the hearing later, said he “almost laughed” when he found out that Blackburn had taken up Mathis’ driving record and referred to it as “a rap sheet”.

“I laughed with my co-workers that I have a rap sheet now, probably much longer than the witnesses,” Booker said, describing his experiences as the first black family to move into his neighborhood in New Jersey as a child.

“I was pulled over a lot more times than [my white friends] was. We all knew what it was all about, “he said.” My brother and I used to think, ‘If we’re black, you’re just preparing to be pulled over. “Sometimes I was stopped because I was driving three kilometers above the speed limit, because something was cracked or that looked crooked on my car.”

Booker asked Mathis if he also experienced “driving while he was black” while growing up.

“I take responsibility for my actions. I do not want to blame anyone or anyone else for what I did,” Mathis said. “That’s what I want to say about it.”


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