Oregon gets a new federal judge

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

On Monday, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the nomination of Marco Hernandez to the U.S. District Court of Oregon.

Hernandez holds the distinction of being the only person nominated to the federal bench by both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. And while it wasn't surprising that Bush's 2008 nominees got held up in an election-year stall, it's entirely stupid that his follow-up nomination by Obama was held up until now.

From the O:

Nearly three years after he was first nominated, the Senate unanimously confirmed Washington County Judge Marco Hernandez for the federal bench on Monday, providing a capstone to a journey that included stops as a dishwasher and night school student before an accomplished legal career. ...

“It is no surprise that Judge Marco Hernandez was nominated for the federal bench, because his life story could serve as a billboard for the American dream,” [Senator Ron] Wyden said. “At the age of seventeen, Marco Hernandez moved to Oregon – all alone. Needing to support himself, he took a job as a dishwasher, later found a better job as a janitor, and eventually became a teacher’s aide. At that point, Judge Hernandez began taking night classes at a local community college, with the hope of one day attending a four-year college." ...

The judge, an Arizona native, graduated from the University of Washington School of Law in 1986. He was an attorney for Legal Aid Services of Oregon for three years and a Washington County deputy district attorney for five years before being appointed as a judge.

Hernandez has been a Washington County Circuit Court judge since 1995 and one of just a few Hispanic judges in Oregon courts. After graduating from WOU in 1983 - then called Western Oregon State College - and law school at the University of Washington in 1986, Hernandez worked a few years for Legal Services.

Hernandez will be the 27th judge on the Oregon federal bench -- and, I'm fairly certain, its first Latino. It's about time.

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    I agree with you, Kari. Although I think you are going too easy on the Democratic Senate for not confirming Marco Hernandez when he was appointed by President Bush in 2008, I do agree that it was unconscionable that Obama waited 18 months before renominating him.

    Of course, it also took awhile for his name to be forwarded to President Obama since the committee appointed by Senators Wyden and Merkley didn't even include Judge Hernandez among their five finalists. But then, they included no women or minorities.

    Kudos to Senator Wyden for overruling his committee and adding Judge Hernandez to the list and for the Senate for confirming him seven months after President Obama finally sent his name to the Senate.

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      George W. Bush nominated Hernandez with less than six months remaining in his term. Nominees are usually put forward by the Sr. Senator of a State, who was at that time Gordon Smith who was defeated a little more than 3 months after Bush put his nomination before the 110th Congress. No judicial nominations of an out-going administration ever get passed in a lame-duck session at the end of a POTUS term, and so thus the nomination was returned. Senators Wyden and Merkley put Hernandez's name in again to President Obama, and now Hernandez is a Federal judge.

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    Hi, Jack! So many backhanded compliments in one little blog comments -- commendable effort!

    For those who want to read the back story, it's all here in a post by Steve Novick -- and be sure to wade into the comments, where Josh Kardon - then Senator Wyden's chief of staff - explained the process in detail. Here's a critical section:

    In closing, I would like to speak to all of the people in this community who share Senator Wyden's commitment to diversity. Senator Wyden had nine appointments to the judicial selection committee, and six of his nine choices were women and people of color. When Senator Merkley's choices were added in, women and people of color still constituted a majority on the selection committee. Had they chosen to, they could have ensured three or four women or minority candidates made it to the final list. Yet, after devoting well over a hundred hours each to the task, they voted for the individuals who they believed were best qualified for the federal bench. No one was more disappointed to see no women, no minorities, and no representatives of the GLBT community emerge from this process than Senator Wyden, but he will not criticize the selection committee for their difficult decisions and is deeply appreciative of their public service.

    Senator Wyden is 100% committed to fighting for equality for all of America's people, and recognizes that the struggle for equality must continue every day at every level of public and private enterprise. He has chosen precisely four federal judges over the course of his career. Of those four, one was the first African-American judge ever appointed to the Oregon bench and two were the first two women appointed to the Oregon bench (federal magistrates are not appointed or confirmed by the U.S. Senate). That means that three out of four of his choices added needed diversity to the Oregon federal bench. Despite this record, Senator Wyden is not resting on his laurels. The Senator will work with a variety of groups in the coming months to encourage and prepare minority and under-represented lawyers to think about how to prepare to compete for these federal openings. He will also continue to ensure diverse representation on selection committees. What he will not do is criticize or abandon a very diverse selection committee for not basing their votes solely on the basis of diversity. That would be precisely the wrong way to fight for diversity and equality in our society.

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      Okay, so where is the part where Josh explains why this committee didn't find Judge Marco Hernandez one of the five most qualified candidates for either of the two district court spots that were open?

      Don't get me wrong, I applaud Senator Wyden (probably with Josh's encouragement) for adding Judge Hernandez to the list forwarded to the White House as well as President Obama for appointing him.

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        Washington county is unfairly considered a legal backwater in the PDX high rises, the corridors of the Oregon State bar and in Salem.

        Look at the bios of the selection committee. They're going to be most comfortable with lawyers and Judges they know, or practice with or against.

        There was no one on the commitee to champion Judge Hernandez, a ighly qualified jurist. I don't blame the selection committee.

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    OK, so the Republicans in the Senate allow 3 judges through including one nominated by Bush. Big deal. How many others are pending? Close to 50.

    Talk about job killing. And I don't mean those 50 judges. Lack of judges means business litigation slows to a standstill. Decisions cannot be made, business cannot move forward.

    The Senate is just dysfunctional and it is hurting the economy.

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    Washington Post headline today: Federal judicial vacancies reaching crisis point


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    Jack, Bush didn't nominate Judge Hernandez until July of 2008, 6 months before he left office. The Senate Judiciary Committee then received the candidate's FBI files and opened their own inquiry nominee, as is standard regardless who is in power. It is hardly surprising - or cause for criticism - that the Judiciary Committee didn't set a land speed record to confirm a guy nominated as the President was preparing to turn the lights off in the White House.

    As for explaining why the selection committee didn't put him in their top five, why would I be called upon to do that? Weren't you on Senator Smith's mostly Republican selection committee, or am I mis-remembering? Just as Sen. Smith's committee reached a result that not everyone agreed with (see Karen Immergut), our mostly Democratic selection committee served independently and rendered their best judgement. For the record, Marco very narrowly missed the top five, which was pretty impressive since he had been the Republican nominee and this was a mostly democratic selection committee (I believe we had 2-3 Republicans on the selection committee). Senator Wyden obviously had no hesitation championing Marco, regardless of his political leanings.

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      I was on the bipartisan committee in 2008 that unanimously recommended Judge Hernandez. Karen Immergut was not one of the names we recommended, although I personally would have supported her nomination.

      And I have never questioned Senator Wyden's support for Judge Hernandez, whose "political leanings" I assume are represented by the fact that he is a nonaffiliated voter.

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