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EASTERN WA JUDGE: Murray Urges Colleagues to Support Nomination of Thomas Rice

Mar 06 2012

Full Senate to vote on Eastern Washington District judge nomination later in the day

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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor in support of Thomas Rice’s nomination as a United States District Judge to the Eastern District of Washington. Since 2006, Mr. Rice has been the First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District. He was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2011.

Key excerpts from speech:

“Mr. Rice has a deep connection to Eastern Washington and its legal community…As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, he has earned the reputation of being both tough on crime—but also level-headed and fair in the conduct of his prosecutions.”

“Mr. Rice clearly meets the standards of fairness, even-handedness, and adherence to the law we expect of our federal judges. So…I know I speak on behalf of a so many in the Washington state legal community in supporting this nomination today.”

“…you would think that someone like Thomas Rice would be able to move through this process quickly and get to work on the court. But unfortunately, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have slowed down and delayed this vote. Mr. Rice’s nomination was unanimously reported out by the Judiciary Committee in October of last year. But his nomination has sat on the executive calendar because Senate Republicans have refused to consent to debate and votes on nominations like his.”

“This kind of obstruction is wrong, it hurts families’ ability to access the courts in a timely fashion—and it puts politics ahead of our justice system.”
“I urge all of my colleagues to vote today in support of Thomas Rice, a great lawyer and community leader who I believe will make an exceptional federal judge.”

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:

“Mr. President, I rise today to urge my colleagues to vote in support of Thomas Rice, who has been nominated to serve as the next federal judge for the Eastern District of my home state of Washington.

“Mr. Rice is a distinguished attorney who has dedicated his professional career to serving the public in the U.S. Attorney’s office.   In that time, he has earned the respect of federal judges, opposing defense attorneys, his fellow prosecutors, and local law enforcement officials.

“Mr. Rice has a deep connection to Eastern Washington and its legal community.  He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in accounting, and then returned on a full scholarship to earn his law degree.  After earning his degree, Mr. Rice moved directly into public service as a trial attorney with the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

“He then returned to the Eastern District to work in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, climbing the ranks to become the First Assistant U.S. Attorney—responsible for the management of the Spokane Office.  And he is currently the highest ranking career DOJ official in the Eastern District.

“Over his twenty years in practice, Mr. Rice has tried over one thousand criminal cases dealing with nearly every area of federal law.

“He has gone above and beyond his duties: volunteering additional hours at the office, taking on extra cases, and establishing the local Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council, which brings together representatives from every law enforcement agency in the Eastern District.

“As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, he has earned the reputation of being both tough on crime—but also level-headed and fair in the conduct of his prosecutions.

“Mr. Rice clearly meets the standards of fairness, even-handedness, and adherence to the law we expect of our federal judges.

“So Mr. President—I know I speak on behalf of a so many in the Washington state legal community in supporting this nomination today.

“Mr. Rice’s nomination was the product of the bipartisan selection commission we use in Washington state. And he has received strong endorsements from both sides of the aisle.

“We continue to use our bipartisan selection process in Washington state, despite the fact that it takes more time and effort, because it works to select judges of the highest quality, and because it’s intended to remove partisanship in the selection of our judges. 

“So Mr. President—you would think that someone like Thomas Rice would be able to move through this process quickly and get to work on the court.

“But unfortunately, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have slowed down and delayed this vote.

“Mr. Rice’s nomination was unanimously reported out by the Judiciary Committee in October of last year.  Unanimously. With strong bipartisan support. Almost four months ago.

“But his nomination has sat on the executive calendar because Senate Republicans have refused to consent to debate and votes on nominations like his.

“I haven’t heard any objections from Republicans about Mr. Rice’s qualifications.   Nor have I heard any Republican claim they had been unfairly blocked from the process. 

“No, this delay is the result of an unprecedented effort by Senate Republicans to delay and block all of President Obama’s judicial nominees.

“There are 20 judicial nominations reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee still awaiting a final Senate vote.   Fourteen of these nominations have been pending since last year and should have been confirmed before the end of last year.   Eighteen of these nominations received strong bipartisan support from the Judiciary Committee. 

“And they deserve to move through this process in a fair way and get a vote here in the Senate—especially when both sides agree that they are going to pass.

“Because even though Republicans are making this about politics here in D.C.—this has a real impact on families and the court system throughout America.

“Nearly 10% of federal judgeships remain vacant right now. And 130 million Americans live in districts or circuits that have a vacancy that would be filled today if the Republican obstruction would end on nominations that have been vetted, considered and favorably reported by the Judiciary Committee,  including the families in the Eastern District of Washington state.

“This kind of obstruction is wrong, it hurts families’ ability to access the courts in a timely fashion—and it puts politics ahead of our justice system.

“So I urge all of my colleagues to vote today in support of Thomas Rice, a great lawyer and community leader who I believe will make an exceptional federal judge.

“And I call on Republicans to end their obstruction and allow us to move forward quickly on debate and votes on the backlog of judicial nominees.

“Thank you. I yield the floor.”