With Democrats retaining at least 50 U.S. Senate seats en route to the new Congress, federal court nominations in Colorado are likely to continue filling in a timely manner.
“I have no reason to believe there will be any problems at any of these positions,” said John P. Collins Jr., visiting associate professor at the University of California The George Washington University Law School, which follows federal judge nominations.
President Joe Biden has already appointed three judges to the US District Court for Colorado in his first two years in office, plus one member of the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, which is based in Denver but handles federal appeals from Colorado and five Neighbore states. Remarkably, all four appointees are women.
There are also two upcoming job postings as US District Court Judge William J. Martínez and Raymond P. Moore have announced they will step down as active judges next year. Both men are appointments from Barack Obama.
Biden selected US Judge Gordon P. Gallagher to fill one of those seats in September, and Gallagher’s nomination is pending in the Senate. Collins speculated that if the Democrats held the Senate seat in Georgia, which is heading for a runoff next month, a 51-to-49 majority could make a difference in who picks the White House for the other seat.
“The White House can perhaps be more aggressive with a candidate,” Collins said. “Someone younger, more openly progressive.”
Dan Burrows, legal director of conservative advocacy group Advance Colorado, agreed that “relatively smooth sailing” for Biden’s nominees in Colorado will continue into 2023.
“Under Republican control, it’s hard to say what would happen. There are certainly some in the Republican Party who think the Senate shouldn’t confirm a single judge,” Burrows said. “But senators are dealmakers by nature. Judge nominations would not be a priority and the pace would slow, but I would be surprised if no nominations came through at all.”
Including the judges already appointed and upcoming job postings, Biden is on track to appoint five of the seven members of the Colorado federal court by the end of his first term.
What is less clear is how many spots will become available on the 10th circuit. Biden has already appointed Judge Veronica S. Rossman to a Colorado resident seat, and US Attorney Jabari Wamble is Biden’s nominee for a current vacancy outside of Kansas.
In addition, three judges are eligible for senior status, a form of semi-retirement that allows them to work cases part-time while maintaining a position as an active judge. Justice Scott M. Matheson Jr. of Utah, an Obama-appointed judge, and Justices Timothy M. Tymkovich of Colorado and Harris L. Hartz of New Mexico, both appointed by George W. Bush, meet the age and seniority requirements, to become senior judges.
Both Collins and University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias, who also tracks court nominations, said it’s possible that at least one of the Republican appointees will step down during Biden’s remaining first term. Tobias added that a Senate with 51 Democratic votes would end the even partisan division of the US Senate Judiciary Committee and give the majority more flexibility to propose candidates.
“That margin will also help with floor voting because Democrats will have less need for Vice President (Kamala) Harris to cut ties unless too many Democrats are absent from the vote,” he said in an E -Mail.
A spokesman for US Senator Michael Bennet — who, along with US Senator John Hickenlooper, was responsible for recommending candidates to the White House for job vacancies in Colorado — confirmed the Georgia runoff.will have a significant impact on the nomination and confirmation process.”
Although the US House of Representatives has no role in court confirmations, Burrows suggested that Republican control of the chamber would have an advantage in filling vacant judgeships.
“As long as the GOP controls the House and the Democrats control the Senate, less Senate-passed legislation will get through,” he said. “So there will be an incentive to focus on nominations that the Senate has full control over.”