Jane Kelly one step closer to confirmation as U.S. Appeals Court judge

In a voice vote today, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved Jane Kelly’s nomination for the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Bleeding Heartland posted background on Kelly here. She has been a federal public defender in the Northern District of Iowa since 1994. According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, she would be "the only public defender to serve on the bench since 1891. Pres. Obama has nominated 100 former prosecutors to the federal bench."

Senator Tom Harkin recommended Kelly for the Appeals Court vacancy. If confirmed, she would be “only the second woman in the Eighth Circuit’s 122-year history to have ever served on the court.” Senator Chuck Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He has blocked some of Obama’s judicial nominations but supports Kelly. After the jump I’ve posted Harkin’s statement on today’s committee action, prepared statements from Harkin and Grassley for Kelly’s committee hearing on February 27, and a press release from the Iowa Fair Courts Coalition.

Press release from Senator Tom Harkin, March 22:

Harkin Welcomes Judiciary Committee Approval of Jane Kelly Nomination

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today welcomed the Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval of Jane Kelly’s nomination to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Her nomination was approved by a bipartisan voice vote and now goes on to the full U.S. Senate for consideration.

“I thank the Judiciary Committee, and particularly Senator Grassley, for working to move Jane Kelly’s nomination so swiftly.  Less than one month ago, the Judiciary Committee heard testimony on Ms. Kelly’s strong qualifications, commitment to justice, and her dedication as a public servant, and I am glad the Committee has now sent her nomination to the full Senate.  I look forward to working with Senator Grassley to ensure the full Senate acts on her nomination soon.”

In late 2012, Harkin recommended Jane Kelly, who has served since 1994 as a federal defender in the Northern District of Iowa, to the White House to replace Judge Michael Melloy.  The White House formally nominated Jane Kelly as U.S. Circuit Court Judge for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on January 31, 2013.   On February 27th, Harkin introduced Kelly at the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on her nomination.  

If confirmed, Ms. Kelly will be only the second female judge in the history of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, a court established in 1891.  In addition, President Obama has nominated 100 former prosecutors to the federal bench.  Among recent Presidents, that is the highest percentage of former prosecutors nominated.  Ms. Kelly, as a federal defender, will bring a critically important perspective to the Eighth Circuit.  

Harkin’s prepared statement on the day of Kelly’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee:

February 27, 2013

In Judiciary Committee Introduction, Harkin Urges Swift Approval of Jane Kelly Nomination

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today urged swift approval of nominee Jane Kelly to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in his introduction of Kelly during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on judicial nominations.  The White House formally nominated Jane Kelly as U.S. Circuit Court Judge for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on January 31, 2013.   Ms. Kelly, who has served since 1994 as a federal defender in the Northern District of Iowa, was recommended by Harkin to the White House in late 2012 to replace Judge Michael Melloy.  Her nomination will need to be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, before being considered by the full U.S. Senate.

Below is the full text of Harkin’s remarks, as prepared for delivery.

“Madame Chair, Ranking Member Grassley and other members of the Committee, it is a great honor for me to introduce Jane Kelly, who has been nominated to serve as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.  I was honored to recommend this outstanding attorney to the President.  I thank him for nominating her.  And I urge this Committee’s swift approval.

“I thank Senator Leahy and the Committee for scheduling such a prompt hearing.  I also thank my senior colleague from Iowa, Senator Grassley, and his staff for making this hearing possible.  For many years, Senator Grassley and I have worked in a collaborative spirit on judicial nominations in our state, and I am grateful that that tradition has continued.

“Madam Chair, I believe Jane Kelly possesses all of the qualifications necessary to assume the responsibilities of a federal appellate judge.  Before recommending Ms. Kelly to the President, I reviewed an unusually strong field of candidates for this position.  She stood out as a person of truly outstanding intellect and character with a reputation as an extremely talented lawyer with a deep sense of compassion and fairness.

“It is no surprise that she enjoys wide, bipartisan support from the Iowa legal community.  Judge Michael Melloy – who was nominated by President George W. Bush, and whose seat on the Eighth Circuit Ms. Kelly is nominated to fill – said that Ms. Kelly “is very intelligent and thoughtful” and “she is a good writer which is important on the appellate court.”  Federal district court judge Stephanie Rose recently noted that Ms. Kelly “has a great blend of personality, skills and common sense to make a great lawyer and judge.”  Iowa state court judge Casey Jones said that Jane Kelly “is one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met.”  It is no surprise the American Bar Association gave her a unanimous qualified rating.

“Ms. Kelly is a credit to all of us who have chosen to be public servants.  She earned her bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from Duke, and received her J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School.  After law school, she was a law clerk to Judge Donald Porter of the District Court of South Dakota and Judge David Hansen, nominated by President George H.W. Bush, of the Eighth Circuit.  She could easily have commanded a big salary with a top law firm.  Instead, for over 20 years she has opted for public service and long hours as a federal defender, working to uphold the rule of law and ensure the rights of all Americans.  We are fortunate that she seeks to continue her public service to Iowa and our nation by serving as a federal judge.

“Madame Chair, let me conclude with two additional notes about Ms. Kelly’s nomination.  First, if confirmed, Ms. Kelly will be only the second female judge in the history of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, a court established in 1891.  While 56 men have sat on that court, to date there has been only one woman – Diana Murphy, from your home state of Minnesota.

“Second, President Obama has nominated 100 former prosecutors to the federal bench, including one I recommended, former U.S. Attorney Stephanie Rose to the Southern District of Iowa.  Among recent Presidents, that is the highest percentage of former prosecutors nominated.  These are all outstanding attorneys and dedicated public servants.  But, as Judge Melloy recently noted with respect to Ms. Kelly, “It will be good to have someone from the public defender realm on the bench.”  Ms. Kelly has served for more than 20 years in the federal defender’s office, where she has argued hundreds of cases on behalf of indigent clients.  She has fought tirelessly to ensure the rights of all are protected and has worked to giving meaning to the phrase above the Supreme Court – Equal Justice for All.  This is a critically important perspective that she will bring to the court.    

“Members of the Committee, Jane Kelly is very highly qualified to serve as United States Court of Appeals Judge for the Eighth Circuit and I urge this Committee to act swiftly to approve her.”

Education

Prepared Statement of Ranking Member Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Senate Committee on the Judiciary

On the Nomination of

Jane Kelly, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I am particularly pleased to welcome the nominee, Ms. Jane Kelly, her family, friends and guests.  Ms. Kelly is nominated to be a United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit.  She presently serves as an Assistant Federal Public Defender and is the Supervising Attorney of the office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  

Ms. Kelly is a native of Indiana.  She received her B.A. from Duke University in 1987.  She spent the next ten months in New Zealand as a Fulbright Scholar.  She received her J.D. from Harvard University in 1991. Upon graduation, she clerked for Judge Donald J. Porter, United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, then for Judge David R. Hansen of the Eighth Circuit.  From 1993 to 1994 she was a visiting instructor at the University of Illinois College of Law.

Since 1994, Ms. Kelly has served as an assistant federal public defender in the Federal Public Defender’s office for the Northern District of Iowa.   She handles criminal matters for indigent defendants and has handled a wide range of crimes. Since 1999, she has been the supervising attorney for the Cedar Rapids office.   Ms. Kelly has spent her entire legal career in litigation and has appeared in court frequently.  She has tried fourteen cases to jury verdict and has also represented clients before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ms. Kelly is active in the Bar and in District Court matters.  She presently serves on the Criminal Justice Act Panel Selection Committee, the Blue Ribbon Panel for Criminal Cases and the Facility Security Committee of the District Court.  She has been a member of the Dean Mason Ladd Inn of Court as well as the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

In 2004 her peers honored her with the John Adams Award from the Iowa Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Drake University Law School.   She was the unanimous choice for this award which recognizes individuals who show a commitment to the constitutional right to criminal defense.

Judge Hansen, for whom Ms. Kelly clerked, has submitted a letter of support.  In that letter he states that Ms. Kelly has practiced law in an exemplary fashion.  He notes “She is a forthright woman of high integrity and of honest character.”  He observed that she possesses an exceptionally keen intellect and a fair and compassionate advocate for her clients.  Judge Hansen concludes that “she will be a welcomed addition to the Court if confirmed.”

The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has unanimously rated Ms. Kelly as “Qualified”.

Again, I welcome Ms. Kelly and look forward to her testimony.

March 22 press release from the Iowa Fair Courts Coalition:

Iowa Fair Courts Coalition Applauds the Senate Judiciary Committee for Supporting Jane Kelly’s Nomination

Statement from Iowa Fair Courts Coalition

(Des Moines, IA)-Today the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve Jane Kelly’s judicial nomination, sending her nomination to the Senate for a full floor vote. President Barack Obama nominated Jane Kelly on January 31. If confirmed, Kelly would become the second woman to ever sit on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. During her nomination hearing on February 27, both Senator Harkin and Senator Grassley expressed their support for Jane Kelly.

The Iowa Fair Courts Coalition includes: One Iowa, Americans for Democratic Action, Working Families Win, the Iowa Citizen Action Network, and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

The Iowa Fair Courts Coalition responded with the following statement:

“We applaud Senator Grassley and the Senate Judiciary Committee for voting Jane Kelly out of committee and sending her nomination to the full Senate for a vote. As a federal public defender from Cedar Rapids, and only the second woman to serve on the Eighth Circuit, Kelly’s diverse background and experiences will be a valuable addition to the bench.

Senator Grassley has shown great leadership in moving Kelly’s nomination forward in the Senate Judiciary Committee and has made it clear that he supports her. We call upon our senior Senator to again demonstrate that leadership by ending what has become a shameful and unnecessary pattern of Senate obstruction for judicial nominees. We deserve a judge who will serve the states represented by the Eighth Circuit, including Iowa, with integrity, fairness and impartiality. We urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Jane Kelly to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.”

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