Martinez Fills 1 of 2 Vacancies Open for Over 3 Years...‘I am Proud to Have Recommended Bill, and I’m Certain that he Will Make an Outstanding Judge’
Today, Mark Udall praised his U.S. Senate colleagues for coming together to confirm the nomination of Bill Martinez to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The vacancy Martinez will fill is one of two on the District Court for Colorado, both of which are rated as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. It has been over three years since Colorado’s federal court had a full roster of judges.
Udall and Senator Michael Bennet recommended Martinez for the bench almost two years ago on the advice of a bipartisan advisory committee they convened, which was chaired by prominent legal experts in Colorado. President Obama nominated Martinez in February; he had a hearing in March, and his nomination was approved by the Judiciary Committee in April.
Unfortunately, his confirmation by the full Senate was delayed for over eight months due to obstruction by the broken culture in Washington, which has contributed to a serious and growing backlog in the federal courts in Colorado and across the country.
Udall fought hard to break the logjam, and today said he is thrilled that the Senate voted to confirm Martinez.
“I believe in strong, well-balanced courts that serve the needs of our citizens. Bill Martinez brings that sense of balance because of his broad legal background, professionalism, and outstanding intellect. I’m proud to have recommended Bill, and I’m certain that he will make an outstanding judge,” Udall said.
“I want to add a note of caution to those who have been holding up judicial nominations in Washington. Not only has the obstruction directly hurt the people of Colorado by exacerbating the backlog in our federal courts, it has sent a troubling message to anyone who seeks to be a public servant,” Udall continued. “Bill’s life and livelihood have been put on hold for almost two years while his nomination was held up. If we continue the habit of needlessly delaying judicial confirmations, we risk chasing off qualified nominees like Bill Martinez. I hope to work with my colleagues in the future to improve the confirmation process for all potential public officials.”
Udall spoke on the Senate floor today about Martinez’s nomination; the following are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, I rise today to urge my colleagues to support an outstanding nominee to the federal bench, Mr. William Martinez. Bill’s story is an inspirational one, and I will share that with you in a moment. But first I want to talk about why there is such urgency to confirm this fine nominee.
The situation in the Colorado District Court is dire. There are currently five Judges on the court and two vacancies – both of which are rated as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. These five judges have been handling the work of seven judges for nearly two years, and it has been over three years since our court had a full roster of judges. But Mr. President, there is more. In 2008, based on the significant caseload in Colorado, the Judicial Conference of the United States recommended the creation of an eighth judgeship on the District Court.
Mr. President, as pressing as the situation is in Colorado, I know that it is not unique. Of the 100 current judicial vacancies, 46 are considered judicial emergencies. I understand that the Senate has confirmed just 53 federal circuit and district court nominees since President Obama was elected, including the judges earlier this weekend. This is half as many as were confirmed in the first two years of the Bush administration and represents a historic low, which – no matter who is to blame – is detrimental to our system of justice.
Bill Martinez was nominated in February of this year, had a hearing in March and was referred favorably by the Judiciary Committee in April. Today, his nomination has been sitting on the Senate Executive Calendar for over eight months. I do not mention this to complain about partisan delays, although we know that continues to plague this institution. Instead, in the hope that we might improve the nomination process, I want my colleagues to hear the real impact of imposing these delays on nominees. The people of Colorado deserve well-qualified justices, but what the U.S. Senate put Bill Martinez through should make each of us question where our priorities lay.
Unlike other judicial nominees before the Senate, Bill Martinez’s life has been turned upside down because of this delay in his confirmation. While other nominees continued their judicial careers, he has had to essentially dismantle his law practice to avoid federal conflicts and even limit taking clients so as to ensure they continued to receive representation once he was confirmed. His life and his livelihood have been put on hold, just because he was willing to become a dedicated public servant. If we continue the habit of needlessly delaying judicial confirmations, we risk chasing off qualified nominees like Bill Martinez.
This long and winding road for him began last year, when Senator Bennet and I convened a bipartisan advisory committee chaired by prominent legal experts in Colorado to help us identify the most qualified candidates for the federal bench. The committee interviewed many impressive individuals. And based on his life experience, his record of legal service, and his impressive abilities, both Republicans and Democrats on this panel together recommended Bill Martinez for a federal judgeship.
President Obama agreed and subsequently nominated Bill for the vacant judgeship. There is no doubt that being nominated for a federal judgeship is a prestigious honor, but since being nominated Senate delays have not only impacted Bill and his family but have also sent a discouraging message to future nominees. Despite the disruptions this process has caused for Bill and the dangerous precedent his delay may set, I am relieved the Senate is finally giving this qualified candidate the confirmation vote he deserves.
I have spoken about his impressive intellect and experience on this floor before, but in advance of this vote I would like my colleagues to hear once again why Bill Martinez was selected by the bipartisan advisory committee for this judgeship. In addition to being an accomplished attorney and a true role model in the community, Bill has a personal story that captures what is great about America and highlights what can be accomplished with focus, discipline and extraordinary hard work.
Bill was born in Mexico City and immigrated lawfully to the United States as a child. He worked his way through school and college and toward a career in law, becoming the first member of his family to attend college. He received undergraduate degrees in environmental engineering and political science from the University of Illinois, and he earned his law degree from the University of Chicago.
As a lawyer, Bill has become an expert in employment and civil rights law. He first began his legal career in Illinois, where he practiced with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, litigating several law reform and class action cases on behalf of indigent and working class clients. For the last fourteen years he has been in private practice and previously served as regional attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Denver.
Over the years, Bill has been an active member of the Denver legal community. During the 1990s, Bill was an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Denver, College of Law, and has been a mentor to minority law students. He is currently Vice Chair of the Committee on Conduct of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, and he has been a Board member and Officer of the Faculty of Federal Advocates. Bill also sits on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association, where he serves as Chair of the CHBA’s Ethics Committee. Most recently, he was appointed by the Colorado Bar Association to the Board of Directors of Colorado Legal Services and by the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court to the Judicial Ethics Advisory Board.
Like all of us, I believe in strong, well-balanced courts that serve the needs of our citizens. Bill Martinez brings that sense of balance because of his broad legal background, professionalism, and outstanding intellect. I am proud to have recommended Bill, and I am certain that, once confirmed, he will make an outstanding judge.
Mr. President, I ask my colleagues to give their full support to this extraordinary candidate, and thank you for your time. I yield the floor.