Vote on judge likely in two weeks

WASHINGTON — Federal district court judge nominee Shelly D. Dick, of Baton Rouge, will have to wait another two weeks for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to vote on her nomination.

While she was on the agenda for Thursday’s committee meeting, Dick was a late addition and she was held over along with two other nominees for the next meeting, on Feb. 28. An affirmative vote then would send her name to the Senate floor for final confirmation.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who follows the federal judiciary, said he expected that Dick would be skipped Thursday because it has become common practice for Republicans during the Obama administration to delay voting on nominees the first time their names come up.

Dick’s name was not even mentioned at the brief committee sessions on Thursday that saw 13 other judicial nominees sent through.

But Tobias said he expects Dick to easily receive approval in two weeks and that her nomination could come to the Senate floor for a vote as soon as April. “That’s just the way they’ve been doing things,” Tobias said.

Dick now has bipartisan support from Louisiana Sens. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, and David Vitter, a Republican.

Dick was nominated by President Barack Obama in April to become the first female U.S. district judge in the Middle District of Louisiana, based in Baton Rouge. She was blocked initially by Vitter, who said he was holding out hope that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney would defeat Obama. After Obama won re-election last month, Vitter withdrew his block and said he backed Dick receiving a fast-tracked confirmation process.

Dick would replace former Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson, who died in 2011.

Dick said Tuesday that she is confident her eventual confirmation is moving forward in the right direction.

She said she was a late addition to the agenda because she did not send her final answers to questions submitted by new senators until Monday. The additional questions came from Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., she said.

Dick, 52, is a native of El Paso, Texas, who moved to Baton Rouge when she started LSU Law School in 1985.

She is a founding partner in Forrester & Dick, a Baton Rouge law firm specializing in litigation. She was one of three possible nominees recommended to Obama by Landrieu. Dick was the only federal judge nominee stalled out of five nominations Obama made at the same time in April.

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

Nationwide, Tobias said there is a logjam of about 90 federal judicial nominees still pending.

“It’s a real problem in Louisiana and nationwide,” Tobias said. “You want to fill those vacancies, and it’s putting more pressures on the sitting judges. Justice delayed is justice denied.”