Congress

Waiting for Trump: Judicial nominees stalled as Congress readies to adjourn

With the Senate failing to act this year, President-elect Donald Trump will decide whether to renominate David Nye, left, as Idaho’s second federal judge. Nye, nominated for the post by President Barack Obama, is shown listening to Buffalo attorney Kathleen Sweet, right, at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on June 21, 2016.
With the Senate failing to act this year, President-elect Donald Trump will decide whether to renominate David Nye, left, as Idaho’s second federal judge. Nye, nominated for the post by President Barack Obama, is shown listening to Buffalo attorney Kathleen Sweet, right, at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on June 21, 2016. McClatchy

There’s a new player in Idaho’s long bid to get a second federal judge: Donald Trump.

With Congress nearing adjournment for the year, Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch of Idaho have had no luck in getting the GOP-controlled Senate to confirm David Nye, a Pocatello judge nominated in April by President Barack Obama.

As a result, both senators are hoping that the president-elect will renominate Nye for the position in 2017.

The delay is more evidence of the gridlock that has consumed Capitol Hill this year.

While Senate Republican leaders refused to allow a hearing on Merrick Garland, Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, they’ve also refused to approve a long list of federal judges.

“It just seems wasteful to me when Nye could be confirmed in 10 minutes today and start taking cases this week,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who’s a close follower of judicial nominations.

It just seems wasteful to me when Nye could be confirmed in 10 minutes today and start taking cases this week.

Carl Tobias, University of Richmond law professor who follows judicial nominations

As of Thursday, Tobias said, Nye was one of 20 federal district judge nominees awaiting a final Senate vote after getting approval from the Judiciary Committee. And he said that some of the nominees have waited a year. In addition, three federal judicial nominees for Washington state didn’t receive even a hearing this year.

Obama nominated Nye to replace Judge Edward Lodge. Nye has served as a district judge for Idaho’s 6th Judicial District Court since 2007, presiding over civil and criminal cases.

The state has had only one full-time judge since July of last year, when Lodge reduced his caseload and went on senior status. Lodge announced his plans to leave the bench in 2014.

Even if Nye is approved next year, Risch and Crapo say that Idaho still needs a third federal judge to handle the state’s growing caseload.

Until 2007, Nye worked at the Pocatello law firm of Merrill & Merrill, where he specialized in medical malpractice and insurance law. He joined the law firm as an associate in 1987 and became a partner in 1989.

Risch and Crapo both issued statements through their press aides, saying they’d work with Trump next year to try to get Nye renominated and confirmed as quickly as possible.

Rob Hotakainen: 202-383-6154, @HotakainenRob

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