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Senate unanimously confirms Jane Kelly as 8th Circuit Court judge

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 12:50:00 PM CDT

The U.S. Senate voted 96 to 0 today to confirm Jane Kelly as U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Press releases from Senator Tom Harkin and the Iowa Fair Courts Coalition are after the jump, along with Senator Chuck Grassley's speech on the Senate floor today. He used that opportunity not only to support Kelly's nomination, but to argue that Democrats and President Barack Obama "should have no complaints [about] the judicial confirmation process." (I don't agree with him on that point.) Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Today the Blog of Legal Times described a fascinating Grassley connection that helped Kelly's confirmation move "faster than any other circuit court nominee during the Obama administration."

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported last month that Kelly would be "only the second female judge in the history to serve on 8th Circuit and the only public defender to serve on the bench since 1891." Harkin commented in today's statement that as a federal public defender, Kelly "will bring a critically important perspective to the Eighth Circuit." Obama has nominated "the highest percentage of former prosecutors" as federal judges, Harkin noted. Iowa's Democratic U.S. Senator recommended Kelly for the vacancy last year.

desmoinesdem :: Senate unanimously confirms Jane Kelly as 8th Circuit Court judge
Statement from Senator Tom Harkin, April 24:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today announced that by a vote of 96 to 0, the U.S. Senate had approved the nomination of Jane Kelly to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Harkin has been working toward today's confirmation since first recommending Kelly to the White House in late 2012.

"Jane 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 give meaning to the phrase above the Supreme Court - Equal Justice Under Law."  This is a critically important perspective that she will bring to the court," said Harkin.  "It is not surprising that she enjoys wide, bipartisan support from the Iowa legal community and that her nomination was approved with such strong support in the U.S. Senate.  

"Ms. Kelly's nomination moved so quickly as a result of the support of my senior colleague from Iowa, Senator Grassley," Harkin continued.  "I thank him for his invaluable support and assistance.  For many years, Senator Grassley and I have cooperated in a spirit of goodwill on judicial nominations in our state, and I am grateful that this tradition has continued.  I would also be remiss if I did not thank Senator Leahy and his staff for their hard work in advancing Ms. Kelly's nomination in such a timely manner."  

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.  On March 22, 2013, the Judiciary Committee approved her nomination by a bipartisan voice vote.

With her confirmation, Ms. Kelly becomes only the second female judge in the history of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, a court established in 1891.  She is the first Circuit Court judge confirmed from Iowa nominated by a Democratic president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  In addition, President Obama has nominated approximately 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.

Press release from April 24:

Iowa Fair Courts Coalition Celebrates Jane Kelly's Confirmation to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals

Coalition Urges Sen. Grassley to Continue to Move Qualified Judicial Candidates through the Senate
(Des Moines, IA)-Today, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Jane Kelly, of Iowa, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit by a vote of 96-0. The vote will be posted at http://www.senate.gov/pagelayo...
The Iowa Fair Courts Coalition celebrates the United States Senate's confirmation of Jane Kelly to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. President Barack Obama nominated Jane Kelly to serve on the Eighth Circuit - the jurisdiction of which includes Iowa - on January 31. She brings diversity and strong experience to the Court as the first former public defender, and only the second woman, to ever sit on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  
On April 10, Senator Grassley introduced the "Court Efficiency Act," S.699, which would, if enacted, eliminate three of the 11 judges from the D.C. Circuit, and add one seat each to the Second Circuit and the 11th Circuit.
Statement from the Iowa Fair Courts Coalition:
"The Iowa Fair Courts Coalition celebrates Jane Kelly's confirmation to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kelly's breadth of experience as a public defender and her perspective as only the second woman to ever serve on the Eighth Circuit Court will bring valuable diversity to the bench that will benefit all people served by this court, including Iowans.
"While we applaud this progress, many qualified judges still remain held up in the Senate. We call upon the Senate and Senator Grassley to stand up for justice, end obstruction for obstruction's sake, and swiftly confirm qualified judicial nominees, including those nominated to fill vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court.
"Our federal courts hear cases on many issues, including Social Security benefits, the environment, immigration, employment issues and civil liberties--all of which impact Iowans. Every day a vacancy goes unfilled, people's lives are affected. While qualified judges are being obstructed in the Senate, courts around the country are facing judicial emergencies that make it harder for ordinary Americans to have access to the courts and to justice. These vacancies are a threat to justice everywhere as cases are stalled, decisions are delayed, and sitting judges are overwhelmed."
# # #
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).
For more information, please visit http://oneiowa.org/be-informed...

Jane Kelly:  Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Jane Kelly has been an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Northern District of Iowa since 1994, serving as the Supervising Attorney in the Cedar Rapids office since 1999.
Kelly was born and raised in Greencastle, Indiana. She received her B.A. summa cum laude in 1987 from Duke University and her J.D. cum laude in 1991 from Harvard Law School. After graduating from law school, Kelly clerked for the Honorable Donald J. Porter of the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota.  Subsequently, she also clerked for the Honorable David R. Hansen on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.  Prior to becoming an Assistant Federal Public Defender, Kelly worked briefly as a visiting instructor at the University of Illinois College of Law.  Since joining the Federal Public Defender's Office, Kelly has argued numerous federal appellate cases, tried 14 cases to verdict in federal court, and argued countless motions.  In 2004, she received the John Adams Award from the Iowa Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, which is given annually to an Iowa attorney who has dedicated his or her career to defending the indigent.

Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, On the Nomination of Jane Kelly, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit, April 24:

Mr. President,
           I rise today in support of the nomination of Jane Kelly to be United States Circuit Judge for the Eight Circuit.

           The nominee before us today, Ms. Kelly, presently serves as an assistant public defender in the Federal Public Defender's office for the Northern District of Iowa in the Cedar Rapids office.

           She is well regarded in my home state of Iowa and so I'm pleased to support Senator Harkin's recommendation that he made to the President and subsequently the President's nomination of Ms. Kelly.

           She received her B.A. summa cum laude from Duke University in 1987.    After spending a few months in New Zealand as a Fulbright Scholar, she went on to Harvard Law School.  She graduated cum laude, earning her J.D. degree in 1991.

Upon graduation, she served as a law clerk - first 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.

Judge Hansen has sent us a letter in support for Ms. Kelly.  He was a person that I have suggested to Republican Presidents for both district judge and then for his long tenure on the Eighth Circuit.  He has been a friend of mine as well.  This is what now-retired Judge Hansen said in support of Ms. Kelly.   "She is a forthright woman of high integrity and honest character" and that she has an "exceptionally keen intellect".  Judge Hansen concludes that "she will be a welcomed addition to the Court if confirmed."   I would add that I have no doubt that she will be confirmed.

Beginning in 1994, she has served as an assistant federal public defender in the Northern District of Iowa in the Cedar Rapids office. She handles criminal matters for indigent defendants and has been responsible for trying a wide range of crimes.  She became the supervising attorney for the Cedar Rapids office in 1999.

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 Facilities Security Committee of the district court.  

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 unanimously chosen for this award, which recognizes individuals who show a commitment to the constitutional rights of criminal defense.

The American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary gave her a Unanimous "Qualified" rating.

I congratulate Ms. Kelly on her accomplishments and wish her well in her new duties.  I am pleased to support her confirmation and urge my colleagues to join me.

Now I would like to spend a couple minutes to update my colleagues on the progress we are making with respect to judicial nominations.

With this confirmation, the Senate will have confirmed 185 judicial nominations to the District and Circuit Courts.  Only two of President Obama's nominees failed confirmation.

That's a record of 185 to 2.

As I stated last week, a .989 batting average is a record any President would be thrilled with.  Yet this President, without justification, complains about obstruction and delay.

Today's confirmation is the 14th so far this year - including 5 circuit judges and 9 district judges.

Let me put that in perspective for my colleagues.  At this point in the second term of the Bush presidency, only one judicial nomination had been confirmed.   A comparative record of 14 - 1 is nothing to cry about.

As I said, this is the fifth nominee to be confirmed as a circuit judge this year, and the 35th overall.   Over 76 percent of his circuit nominees have been confirmed.  President Clinton ended up at 73 percent; President Bush at 71 percent.  So President Obama is doing better than the previous two Presidents.

           So again, this President and Senate Democrats should have no complaints on the judicial confirmation process.  The fact of the matter is that President Obama is doing quite well.  I yield the floor.

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I yield the floor. (4.00 / 2)
He should have yielded the floor after this paragraph,

"I congratulate Ms. Kelly on her accomplishments and wish her well in her new duties.  I am pleased to support her confirmation and urge my colleagues to join me."

Alas agreeing with the other side must still have a taste of venom at the end.  


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