Paul Watford, nominated to an emergency vacancy on the Ninth Circuit, was the first nominee voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this year. After almost five months, a cloture vote on his nomination had been scheduled for yesterday afternoon. Prior to the scheduled vote, however, Senate Majority Leader Reid moved to have a yes-or-no confirmation vote instead, and there was no objection. So Mr. Watford was confirmed by a vote of 61-34.
Now-Judge Watford’s confirmation is excellent news, although it’s disappointing that it’s news that was almost five months in the making. Judge Watford, who had clerked on the Ninth Circuit and the Supreme Court, and had served as a federal prosecutor before becoming a partner in a private law firm, had the enthusiastic, and bipartisan, support of his peers. After this long-overdue vote, he is now one of only two active African American judges on the Ninth Circuit, a court with 29 seats and serving 62 million residents.
Yesterday’s vote is a positive step forward on the long road towards resolving the judicial vacancy crisis. But there are still eighteen nominees waiting for their confirmation votes. It’s important to keep up the pressure until each of them has a day like Paul Watford had yesterday.