Norton Gratified by Confirmation of Two D.C. Superior Court Judges and Will Seek Quick Action on Four Pending Local Court Nominations
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said she was particularly grateful that her work to get District of Columbia local judges appointed had culminated with the Senate confirming two Superior Court judges, Darlene Soltys and Robert Salerno, the day before it adjourned for the year. Norton said the confirmations would not have happened without the leadership of Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Tom Carper (D-DE), the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the committee of jurisdiction, as well as Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who helped push the Senate to confirm the two judges. Norton said that she hoped the momentum would continue, and that the Senate would quickly take up four pending D.C. judicial nominations, one for the Court of Appeals and three for the Superior Court. Norton said that as Article I judges, the Senate has given D.C. judges little priority, regardless of the party in power. On December 3, Norton made a special plea for Soltys and Salerno at their confirmation hearing. The D.C. Courts also sent a letter to Senate leaders stating that continued vacancies are causing an increase in the time cases are pending. Norton’s statement asking for more rapid confirmations of pending D.C. judges was unusual. At the time, she was grateful for Senate confirmations of two Superior Court judges in November, who were the first D.C. court judges confirmed by the Senate since May 2013.
Norton emphasized that the D.C. judges are the District’s only trial and appellate judges, and as Article I judges, they have to be confirmed by the Senate. Before the Revitalization Act of 1997, the District paid for the D.C. Courts, even though the judges were nominated by the president. When the District had to decide which state functions to give up during the control board period, D.C. gave up the courts, whose judges it could not appoint, but still had to pay for. For home-rule and statehood purposes, Norton said the District should have the authority to appoint its own judges, as the states do, but that would likely require D.C. to pay for its courts.
“At a time when crime has spiked here and across the nation, D.C.’s courts must be able to act quickly on pending cases,” Norton. “Our local D.C. courts are still suffering judicial vacancies and case backlogs. By moving before adjourning, the Senate has shown it understands the importance of reducing the backlog. I will press this momentum forward for the remaining judges when the Senate returns.”
The D.C. courts, which consist of the Superior Court and the Court of Appeals, adjudicate local criminal and civil matters. The Home Rule Act of 1973 established the District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission (JNC), whose members are appointed by D.C. and federal government officials. The JNC makes three recommendations to the president for each vacancy on the D.C. courts, and the president appoints, with the advice and consent of the Senate, one of the three.