Cape Elizabeth lawyer's judicial nomination back on track

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PORTLAND — The second time may be the charm for William Kayatta Jr., the Cape Elizabeth lawyer renominated to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Tuesday announced the Senate Judiciary Committee will reconsider Kayatta’s nomination to the Boston court by President Barack Obama on Thursday. The committee is expected to vote early next week.

Committee approval would move the renomination to the Senate floor, where it stalled last year during because of an election-year maneuver that has been used by Democrats and Republicans over the last 45 years.

Kayatta, a civil litigation specialist at the Pierce Atwood law firm, would replace  Judge Kermit Lipez, a South Portland resident who is taking senior judicial status.

Collins said she has asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to expedite Kayatta’s renomination to the court. The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals is one judicial rung below the U.S. Supreme Court; it hears federal cases from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico.

Collins and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine support Kayatta’s nomination and previously urged Senate leaders to schedule a floor vote after the elections and before the 112th Congress adjourned late last year. The new congressional term requires reconsideration of the president’s prior judicial nominees.

After gaining Judiciary Committee support last spring, Kayatta’s nomination stalled in the full Senate when Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed to block pending federal court nominations by use of filibusters.

The tactic was originally attributed to the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., who  blocked President Lyndon Johnson’s 1968 nomination of Abe Fortas to the U.S. Supreme Court. Leahy and Senate Democrats have also used filibusters to block election-year judicial nominations by Republican presidents.

Last summer, Collins and former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, vowed to vote to end any filibuster. Unable to muster 60 votes to end debate last July on Judge Robert Bacharach’s nomination to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D.-Nev., did not schedule any more floor votes. The stall affected at least three other nominations, including Kayatta’s, during the presidential election campaign.

“I thank Chairman Leahy for moving quickly to consider Bill’s renomination,” Collins said. “Bill has a stellar record (and) the highest ABA rating. I am hopeful that, once he is approved again by the Judiciary Committee, the full Senate will move swiftly to confirm this qualified nominee and finally fill this vacancy.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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William Kayatta Jr.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.