Norton Says Republican Senate Confirms Third D.C. District Court Nominee Without Input from Residents, Comprising Half of All Senate-Confirmed District Court Nominees

Nov 28, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said that yesterday’s Senate confirmation of Dabney Langhorne Friedrich to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia means that half of the six Senate-confirmed district court nominees this year were for the D.C. district court.  The other three confirmed nominees were from states with two Republican senators.  Norton said the high volume of D.C. district court confirmations shows that the Trump Administration and Senate Republicans are fast-tracking D.C. nominees due to the District’s lack of Senate representation.  Thus far, the Senate Judiciary Committee has been observing the traditional “blue-slip” process for district court nominees, which requires both home-state senators to sign off before the committee will consider a nominee.

Unlike the last three administrations, the Trump administration has not provided Norton with any role in the nomination of federal district court judges and federal law enforcement officials in the District.  Norton repeatedly protested and her office worked with the offices of Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and committee member Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who then requested that all D.C. district court nominees meet with Norton before their committee votes.

“By excluding D.C. from the nominating process, the Trump administration is treating the D.C. district court like a patronage center without regard to the D.C. residents who these federal officials must serve,” Norton said.  “Although the District lacks Senate representation, we had senatorial courtesy in Democratic administrations and courtesy of consultation from the George W. Bush administration.  I now meet with President Trump’s nominees, thanks to working with Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, who have insisted that at least that courtesy take place.  However, I will continue to insist that the Trump administration fully incorporate D.C. in the nominating process.”

In March, Norton wrote Trump requesting that he extend her the courtesy of consulting on the appointment of key federal officials in D.C.—including federal district court judges, the U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Marshals—the same courtesy extended to her by President George W. Bush.  Presidents Clinton and Obama extended Norton “senatorial courtesy” to recommend these federal officials in the same manner as Democratic senators, and all of Norton’s recommendations were D.C. residents or committed to residing in the District during their terms.  Using the senatorial authority granted by Presidents Clinton and Obama, Norton formed her Federal Law Enforcement Nominating Commission, comprised of distinguished lawyers and laypeople from every ward, chaired by Pauline Schneider, a former president of the D.C. Bar, to screen and recommend candidates.  Norton interviewed commission-vetted candidates and submitted names to the president from a list recommended by the commission.

To date, Trump has nominated five officials for positions in D.C.—four to the federal district court and the U.S. Attorney—but four of the five are not D.C. residents.  Friedrich is not a D.C. resident.  Under federal law, in nearly every U.S. jurisdiction, federal district court judges, U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals are required to reside within the jurisdictions where they have been appointed—but no such residency requirement exists for officials serving in the District.  In April, Norton introduced a bill to require these officials serving in D.C. to live in D.C.  The bill is part of her “Free and Equal D.C.” series of legislation, which insists on equal rights for D.C. residents, which is possible under the Home Rule Act even before the District achieves statehood.