2 years later, Obama pick for judgeship in Arizona still hasn't gotten a hearing

2013-06-22T00:00:00Z 2013-06-22T08:01:42Z 2 years later, Obama pick for judgeship in Arizona still hasn't gotten a hearingEvan Bell Cronkite News Service Arizona Daily Star
June 22, 2013 12:00 am  • 

WASHINGTON - It has been two years since President Obama nominated Rosemary Marquez to a vacant federal judgeship in Arizona, but the Senate has so far refused to give her a nomination hearing.

Arizona's senators have to give the OK for a hearing under Senate custom, but the staffs of Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake offered only a "no comment" this week when asked about Marquez.

Supporters, meanwhile, continued to question the delay at a time when the U.S. District Court for Arizona has five vacant judgeships and is struggling under a crushing caseload.

"It's really an outrage the Republicans have held up her nomination this long," said Greg Kuykendall, an attorney in Tucson.

It was June 23, 2011, when Obama nominated Marquez and Jennifer Guerin Zipps to the Arizona district court, calling them "highly qualified candidates for the federal bench."

Zipps had a confirmation hearing in July 2011 and was confirmed by the full Senate in October 2011. Marquez never got a hearing.

She had to be renominated in January, with 32 other stalled judicial nominees, when Obama began his second term. The White House did not respond to requests this week for comment.

Of those 33, the Senate has since confirmed 25 and held hearings on another two. Two nominees withdrew, leaving Marquez and three others with no action on their nominations.

Of the four, Marquez has had the longest wait by far. The next-longest wait has been since February 2012.

The average wait for a judicial confirmation hearing in the Obama era is 82 days, said Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Marquez's wait passed 700 days last month. The seat she was nominated to fill has been vacant for more than 1,000 days.

Five of the 13 judgeships are currently vacant on the U.S. District Court for Arizona, which declared a judicial emergency in 2011 after Judge John Roll was killed in the Tucson shooting spree that wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

A judicial emergency is when a "weighted filing" -the number of criminal and civil cases divided by the number of judgeships - exceeds 600. In Arizona, that number is 677.

Federal court management statistics in December reported that Arizona had the second-highest number of criminal felony filings last year - 449 - in the 9th U.S. Circuit, trailing only Southern California. Arizona also had the second-longest average for vacant judgeships at 24 months, behind California's 37 months.

Marquez was admitted to the Arizona bar in 1993 and served as a federal public defender before going into private practice in 2000. She remains in private practice in Tucson.

The American Bar Association - which rates federal judicial nominees as well-qualified, qualified or not qualified - unanimously gave Marquez a qualified rating.

Marquez did not return a call seeking comment on her nomination.

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