The Senate confirmed magistrate Leonard T. Strand, 93-0, as the next federal judge in Iowa’s Northern District, which fills one of the judicial emergency vacancies but 31 remain across the nation.
There has only been one fulltime district judge, Chief Judge Linda Reade, in Iowa’s Northern District since Judge Mark Bennett took senior status last year. However, Bennett has continued with a full caseload to help Reade because out of 94 districts across the nation, the Northern district ranks 20th for the number of case filings.
Sen. Chuck Grassley recommended Strand and Rebecca Ebinger, confirmed Monday, to the White House last year after an extensive effort by a Judicial Selection Commission that Grassley formed after two judges announced their intention to take senior status. The commission was comprised of highly qualified members of the Iowa legal community.
Sen. Joni Ernst in a statement on Thursday said of Strand: “He is dedicated to serving the people of Iowa and I look forward to continuing to follow his outstanding career as he continues to serve our great state and nation”
Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has taken some heat over not moving judicial nominees through the committee for a floor vote, but he pushed for the two Iowa nominees to pass many others nominated before them.
Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond School of Law professor and federal judiciary expert, said Thursday Grassley was able to “swiftly” get the Iowa judges to the floor but the “major problem is why he has not been as effective as the chair in helping to fill the other 75 vacancies across the nation, 31 of which are judicial emergencies? Ask the Nebraska and Tennessee senators where their nominees are who were nominated way ahead of the two Iowans.”
Tobias said Nebraska only has three active judges, which is down 33 percent and Tennessee has had a nominee for an emergency vacancy for over a year ago.
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Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, judiciary committee ranking member, said in a statement after Strand’s vote that there are still 17 judicial nominees pending a Senate vote. Each nominee was approved by the Judiciary Committee by voice vote and should be confirmed without further delay, he said.
“There is an urgent need for the Senate to confirm highly qualified nominees who will get to work in federal court houses across the country where justice for too many Americans has been delayed,” Leahy said. “Refusing to confirm any judicial nominees for the rest of this year would make the high number of vacancies in our federal judiciary even worse. This would hurt the American people and weaken our justice system. We cannot allow this to happen.”