PORTLAND — Despite objections from both of Maine’s U.S. senators, a confirmation vote for a Cape Elizabeth lawyer nominated to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston will not be scheduled before the November general election.
William Kayatta Jr., now a trial lawyer with Portland-based Pierce Atwood, was nominated by President Barack Obama to fill the appeals court seat vacated by Judge Kermit Lipez, a South Portland resident.
Lipez is taking senior judicial status, opening a spot on the circuit that serves Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico. The appeals court sits one rung below the Supreme Court of the United States. Kayatta was nominated in January and his nomination cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in the spring.
Prospects of a full Senate vote to confirm his nomination were eliminated Monday when a vote to end debate on another nomination failed, 56-34. Senate rules require 60 votes to invoke cloture, or end debate. After the vote, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate Majority Leader, announced he will not schedule any more judicial appointment votes.
Maine’ Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, each supported Kayatta’s nomination and voted to end debate Monday on the nomination of Oklahoman Robert Bacharach to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“I have strongly supported Bill’s nomination from day one and will continue to work with the Senate leadership in an effort bring his nomination to the floor for a vote, with the hope that the majority leader will reconsider his decision on this critical matter,” Snowe said Monday.
Collins said she voted to proceed to the nomination of Bacharach because he is a “highly experienced and well-qualified nominee.”
“With very little time until the August recess,” Collins said, “it remains my hope that the Senate will confirm Bill Kayatta, whose qualifications are equally impressive.”
Blocking judicial appointments by extended debate in a presidential election year is a practice first attributed to the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C. It has been used by both parties since 1968, and has been called both the “Thurmond Rule” and “Leahy Rule” because of its use by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
The final vote to end debate on Bacharach was 56-34, with Republican Sens. Tom Coburn and James Inofe of Oklahoma and Orrin Hatch of Utah voting “present,” instead of yes or no, to end debate.
The failure to end debate on Bacharach’s nomination also endangers votes for Richard Taranto, nominated to the Federal Circuit, and Patty Shwartz, nominated to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
William Kayatta Jr.