Norton Thanks Durbin For Defending D.C.’s Right to a Role in Nomination of Federal Officials at Confirmation Hearing Today

Jun 28, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) thanked Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) for getting two Trump administration nominees for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to commit at their confirmation hearing today to meet with Norton before the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a vote on their nominations.  Durbin noted that the Trump administration, unlike the last three administrations, has not provided Norton any role in the nomination process for federal district court judges and other law enforcement officials in the District.  Norton had requested that Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats question the nominees on their knowledge of D.C. and whether they intend to reside in D.C. during their terms.

“We are grateful to Senator Durbin, who has always been one of the strongest defenders in Congress of D.C. equality,” Norton said.  “It is beyond unacceptable that D.C. residents have been excluded from the nomination process for federal officials who serve them.  I look forward to the nominees abiding by their commitment to Senator Durbin and meeting with me, as under prior administrations.”

In March, Norton wrote President 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 this authority, Norton formed a commission of distinguished lawyers and non-lawyers, chaired by a former president of the D.C. Bar, to screen and recommend candidates, and Norton then interviewed and recommended the top candidates to the president.  Under Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), like his immediate predecessor and some prior chairmen, the committee has not considered nominees for federal judge, U.S. attorney or U.S. Marshal unless both home-state senators, regardless of party, consent to the nominee moving forward, known as the “blue-slip” process.

Congress has found that it is critical that these federal officials understand the people and issues of the jurisdictions they serve, and living in the jurisdictions where their decisions apply keeps them in touch with local issues.  This is particularly important for the U.S. Attorney for D.C., whose major responsibility is unique in the United States because he prosecutes almost all crimes committed by adults under local D.C. law.

To date, President Trump has nominated three judges to the federal district court here and the U.S. Attorney, but three of them are not D.C. residents.  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.  Even in the U.S. territories, such officials must live in those districts, other than the U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal appointed for the Northern Mariana Islands who at the same time are serving in the same capacity in another district.  The only other exceptions exist for officials appointed to the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of New York, which are the only districts that serve different parts of the same city.  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.