Vitter removes block on judicial nominee

U.S. Sen. David Vitter removed his block of federal judge nominee Shelly D. Dick now the presidential election is over.

Dick was nominated by President Barack Obama in April to become the first female U.S. district judge in the Baton Rouge-based federal Middle District of Louisiana. Her confirmation was stalled by Vitter, R-La., in case GOP nominee Mitt Romney defeated Obama.

“I just thought so close to a federal election, we should have the election and abide by the results,” Vitter said Wednesday.

Out of the nominations Obama made at the same time in April, Dick, of Baton Rouge, was the only federal judicial nominee whose confirmation was delayed.

Vitter said Dick should have her U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in December and that she could potentially be confirmed by the full Senate before the year’s end. No committee hearing has been scheduled yet.

Once Obama won re-election, Vitter said, he turned in his “blue slip” the next week.

In the U.S. 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. Once both senators from the state of the nominee return the slips, which show their approval, the confirmation hearing is held.

While Vitter said he cannot project how Dick will rule as a judge in the future, he said she has the qualifications for the job. “She has a good, solid legal background,” Vitter said.

Dick said, “I’m just happy to be able to serve our judiciary and our country and our citizens.”

She is a founding partner in Forrester & Dick, a Baton Rouge law firm specializing in litigation. A year ago, she was one of three possible nominees recommended to Obama by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to replace the late Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson.

Dick is a veteran civil litigation defense attorney in federal court. And she has represented both government and non-government clients in matters of federal employment law.

Landrieu said she understood Vitter’s “hesitancy” in blocking the judicial nomination on a temporary basis, but that Obama’s victory removed any such reasoning. “There’s no reason to slow down that process at all now,” Landrieu said.

Earlier this year, White House spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm said Obama has “complete confidence” in Dick and that he hoped that her confirmation would proceed smoothly.

Vitter and Landrieu have some history of feuding over blue slips on federal nominees.

In May, 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 U.S. District 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 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.