Senate Judiciary Committee approves nomination of Jane Kelly as next 8th Circuit appeals judge

 Jane Kelly
 Jane Kelly

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved Assistant Federal Public Defender Jane Kelly’s nomination to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Friday.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said her nomination was approved by a bipartisan voice vote, after a delay from Thursday, and now goes on to the full U.S. Senate for consideration.

“I thank the Judiciary Committee, and particularly Sen. (Chuck) Grassley, for working to move Jane Kelly’s nomination so swiftly," Harkin said. "Less than one month ago, the Judiciary Committee heard testimony on Ms. Kelly’s strong qualifications, commitment to justice, and her dedication as a public servant, and I am glad the committee has now sent her nomination to the full Senate.  I look forward to working with Sen. Grassley to ensure the full Senate acts on her nomination soon.”

Harkin recommended Kelly, a public defender since 1994 with the Northern District of Iowa, in late 2012 to Pres. Obama to replace now retired Judge Michael Melloy. Kelly was formally nominated by the President Jan. 31. On Feb. 27, Harkin then introduced Kelly at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on her nomination.

Harkin said at that hearing that Kelly, the supervising attorney in the Cedar Rapids office, was nominated because she possessed all the qualifications needed for a federal judge,  including intellect and character, and she has a reputation of being an "extremely talented lawyer."

Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the judiciary committee, also supported Kelly at that hearing, citing her commitment to upholding the Constitution and the unanimous rating from the American Bar Association of being a "qualified" judicial nominee.

University of Richmond School of Law Prof. Carl Tobias, who analyzes the judiciary, said after the hearing the Senate will recess soon for two weeks and won't return until April 8, so he's "cautiously optimistic" she may received a floor vote in April or it could go into May.

"There is one appellate nominee and 16 district judge nominees ahead of her," Tobias said. "I think she will win overwhelming appointment due in substantial measure to strong support from Senators Harkin and Grassley."

If confirmed,  Kelly will be only the second female judge in the history to serve on 8th Circuit and the only public defender to serve on the bench since 1891. Pres. Obama has nominated 100 former prosecutors to the federal bench.Kelly received her bachelor's degree 1987 from Duke University and her law degree 1991 from Harvard Law School. After graduating from law school, Kelly clerked for the U.S. District Judge Donald J. Porter of South Dakota and also clerked for Hansen.