WASHINGTON — Sen. David Vitter plans to block the federal judge nomination of Baton Rouge lawyer Shelly D. Dick, of Baton Rouge, at least until after the presidential election in November.
Dick is the only federal judge nominee stalled, out of five nominations President Barack Obama made at the same time in April.
Vitter, R-La., declined interview requests Monday, but did respond in a prepared statement.
“By any measure, I’ve bent over backwards to cooperate regarding President Obama’s Louisiana nominees, which has resulted in all 10 before this being confirmed in record time,” Vitter stated. “Now that it’s a few months before a presidential election, however, I’m going to let the people speak before supporting any others.”
Dick is a founding partner in Forrester & Dick, a Baton Rouge law firm specializing in litigation. In November, she was one of three possible nominees recommended to Obama by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La, to replace the late Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson.
Dick said she has failed in her efforts to contact Vitter.
“I have reached out to Sen. Vitter but have not had the opportunity to speak with him, and I don’t know what his intentions are,” Dick said Monday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting Wednesday to consider the other four nominees Obama made April 25.
“He (Vitter) hasn’t contacted me about it, so you’d have to get his reasons why,” Landrieu said Monday.
In the Senate, each senator is given a “blue slip” by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on nominations in their state for federal judge, U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal.
Only once the two senators from the state of the nominee return the slips showing their approval is the confirmation hearing held.
White House spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm said Monday in an email response, “The president has complete confidence in Shelly Deckert Dick, and hopes that she will proceed toward confirmation soon, becoming the first woman to ever serve on the Middle District of Louisiana District Court.”
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said Dick “seems to be qualified” and that Vitter appears to be stalling.
“There are 16 people (federal judge nominees) on the (Senate) floor now waiting for votes and some of them have been waiting for quite awhile,” Tobias said.
Vitter and Landrieu also have some history of feuding over blue slips on federal nominees.
last month, Vitter stalled two appointments to the Federal Reserve Board before they were ultimately pushed through.
In 2010, Vitter held up two Louisiana nominations — one for then-nominated federal Judge Brian Jackson of Baton Rouge and a U.S. marshal candidate in New Orleans — in an effort to ensure that the U.S. attorney he supports in the Eastern District, Jim Letten, remained. Vitter relented once Letten was reappointed with the support from Landrieu.
Similarly, in 2007, Landrieu successfully blocked the nomination of U.S. Attorney David Dugas for a federal judgeship, citing concerns about some of the cases Dugas handled. That was the only hold that Landrieu used during the eight years of the Bush administration.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., does not comment on pending nominees before his committee. But his staff pointed to comments he made last month complaining about Republicans blocking federal nominations.
“I hope that Senate Republicans will stop blocking prompt confirmation of consensus nominees,” Leahy said at the time. “That is a destructive development and new practice that has contributed to keeping the Senate behind the curve, keeping federal judicial vacancies unfilled, overburdening the federal courts and keeping Americans from securing prompt justice. The American people deserve better.”