3Q's: Senator Roger Wicker on judicial nominations

Roger Wicker of Tupelo was a U.S. representative when he was appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by Trent Lott in late 2007. He was elected to a full six-year term in 2008.
Wicker answered these questions from the Daily Journal’s Joe Rutherford about judicial nominations, including last week’s hearing for state Supreme Court Justice James Graves.

Q: You and Sen. Thad Cochran both testified on Wednesday in support of Justice James Graves’ nomination to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. When do you expect a full committee vote on the nomination?
A: Typically, a full committee vote would occur either one or two weeks after the hearing. Unfortunately, the Senate adjourned Wednesday and is not expected to return until after the November elections. I hope that a full committee vote will occur once the Senate comes back into session at that time.

Q: Do you anticipate any problems winning confirmation for Graves?
A: Both Sen. Cochran and I enthusiastically endorsed Justice Graves at his nomination hearing. Every nominee must be judged on his or her merits and every senator has his or her own standard in evaluating judicial nominees. Justice Graves did receive some questions at his hearing regarding the death penalty, but he made it clear he would follow the law as handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. I believe Justice Graves will bring a distinguished and experienced background of public service to the 5th Circuit. Justice Graves has been recognized on numerous occasions with awards noting his true servant’s spirit, which I believe is a testament to his dedication to his family and community.

Q: Some Obama nominees to the judiciary, including some approved by the full committee, have not been confirmed. Has the process become mired in partisanship (on both sides of the aisle) that delays placing well-qualified people on the federal bench?
A: It is important to remember that the responsibility to nominate federal judges and Justice Department officials starts with the president. The vast majority of the current vacancies are because of the president’s failure to make a nomination. During his 20 months in office, President Obama has appointed only one of the four U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal positions for Mississippi. This painfully slow process makes me wonder whether filling these positions is a top priority of the administration.
In cases of judicial nominees, partisanship often comes into play. However, that is not the reason for the slow pace this year. Democrats control the White House, Justice Department and the Senate. Regrettably, well qualified people have often had to wait. Many of President Bush’s nominees waited years before they received their final confirmation vote. Two Mississippi nominees, Judge Charles Pickering and attorney Rick Barry, were deemed highly qualified by the American Bar Association but were never brought to the Senate floor for a vote.

NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio