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Mar 12 2014

Hatch on Confirmation of Judge Carolyn McHugh to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Utah Senator Recommended and Championed Her Nomination Through the Confirmation Process


(Click the image above to watch Hatch’s speech)

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, current member and former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today voted for and applauded Senate confirmation of Judge Carolyn McHugh to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.  Hatch recommended her nomination to President Obama and championed her nomination through the confirmation process in the Senate which began last year.  Judge McHugh was unanimously confirmed (98-0).  After being sworn in, Judge McHugh will replace 10th Circuit Judge Michael Murphy. 

In advance of the final vote on her confirmation, Hatch praised McHugh in a recent speech on the Senate Floor, saying Judge McHugh “is exactly the kind of outstanding nominee of varied legal experience that I set out to find to fill this vacancy.”  Hatch added that “I know a first-rate nominee when I see one.  Judge McHugh’s varied experience, her personal character and intelligence, and her work ethic make her one of the very best.” 

Hatch applauded President’s Obama’s nomination of Judge McHugh last year and introduced her during a Judiciary Committee hearing on her confirmation last fall.

Hatch’s Full Remarks Praising Judge McHugh on the Senate Floor are below: 

Mdme. President, I want to express my strong support for the nomination of Carolyn B. McHugh to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. 

Judge McHugh received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Utah.  She is exactly the kind of outstanding nominee of varied legal experience that I set out to find to fill this vacancy. 

She has both practiced and taught law.  

She has practiced in both state and federal court.  

She has extensive experience both before and behind the bench.  

She has served the county and state bars as well as the state judiciary on committees and commissions.  

And, she has been widely recognized and awarded for her distinguished legal career.  

And somehow, along the way, Judge McHugh has found time to serve her community with groups such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Voices for Utah Children, and Catholic Community Services of Utah. 

Judge McHugh’s 22 years of litigation experience were almost evenly split between state and federal court.  In nearly a decade on the Utah Court of Appeals, currently as the Presiding Judge, she has heard more than 1100 appellate civil and criminal cases that reached judgment.  

When she is confirmed to the Tenth Circuit, I think Judge McHugh may have one of the shortest learning curves on record. 

When we have a judicial vacancy in Utah, I spend a lot of time talking to lawyers and judges throughout our state’s legal community.  

Judge McHugh received praise for many things, but perhaps the most common description was simply that she works harder than anyone else.  Her former law partners said it, judges said it.  Over and over the same thing came up – she works incredibly hard.

Mdme. President, I have been doing this a long time, and have participated in the nomination or confirmation of more than half of the judges who have ever served on the Tenth Circuit.  

I know a first-rate nominee when I see one.  

Judge McHugh’s varied experience, her personal character and intelligence, and her work ethic make her one of the very best.  

The Judiciary Committee approved her nomination without opposition, and I expect the same result in the Senate. 

I do have to say, Mr. President, that this nomination could have been confirmed months ago. 

Despite some controversy over a few nominees, the confirmation process was working well.  In his first five years, President Obama appointed 24.6 percent of the federal judiciary, compared to 25.8 percent in President George W. Bush’s first five years.  

The Congressional Research Service says that the Senate confirmed a higher percentage of President Obama’s appeals court nominees than it did for President Clinton and did so faster than it did for President Bush. 

In President Bush’s first five years, Democrats conducted 20 filibusters of appeals court nominations, compared to only seven in President Obama’s first five years.  Filibusters were much less a factor in the confirmation process under President Obama than they had been in the past.  

But that was not good enough. 

So, last November, Democrats abolished nomination filibusters altogether.  

For more than 200 years, the minority in the Senate – no matter what their political party – had a real role in the confirmation process.  

The possibility of a filibuster had two effects.  First, it suggested to the President that he might want to send more moderate nominations to the Senate.  Second, it prompted the minority to cooperate with the majority in confirming non-controversial nominations. 

The new confirmation process that Democrats created has no real role for the minority.  As a result, neither of those positive effects exists any more.  The President has no incentive to choose more moderate nominees, to consult with home-state Senators, or to look for consensus.  And the minority here in the Senate has no incentive to waive rules or to agree to shortcuts.

There used to be balance in this process.  The minority could filibuster a few of the more extreme nominees, and so the minority helped process the large majority of non-controversial nominees.  

That balanced approach was apparently unacceptable to the current majority. 

Democrats took that approach away, leaving a process – if it can be called that – that only the majority controls. 

Democrats did not want the minority’s cooperation, they did not want a process that has some give and take in it.  Democrats wanted a process that is all take, and no give.  And so here we are.  

Part of the process we used to have would have been confirming additional nominations before adjourning the first session of a Congress.  The nomination before us would have been confirmed that way, months ago.  Instead, we are forced to do things in this new way. 

Judge McHugh is the same, highly qualified, non-controversial nominee.  There is no good reason why the majority would want to take months longer to confirm a nomination like this.

But this is the confirmation process that Democrats created.  

They got the control they wanted.  

I believe that this distortion of the process harms the Senate as an institution.  By creating unnecessary controversy and delay, this new process also harms the other branches to which nominations have been made. 

It did not have to be this way. It should not have been this way.