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Maine senators renew push for Cape Elizabeth lawyer's judicial appointment

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Maine senators renew push for Cape Elizabeth lawyer's judicial appointment

CAPE ELIZABETH — With the election over and the conclusion of the 112th Congress approaching, Maine Republican U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are asking for a floor vote on the stalled judicial nomination of a Cape Elizabeth lawyer.

William Kayatta, a civil litigation specialist with Portland-based Pierce Atwood, was nominated to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston last January. His nomination was endorsed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in April.

In letters Wednesday to Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Collins and Snowe requested prompt confirmation votes for Kayatta.

Collins urged Senate leaders to vote on all judicial nominations enjoying bipartisan support before the current session concludes.

Snowe, in a prepared statement, said "the Senate should promptly confirm President Obama’s nomination of Mr. William Kayatta of Maine for a seat on the First Circuit Court of Appeals before this session adjourns. Mr. Kayatta’s nomination was submitted to the Senate by the Obama Administration almost 10 months ago. His nomination was approved with a voice vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee more than eight months ago. In short, there is simply no good reason for his nomination to remain on the Executive Calendar."

Sen.-elect Angus King, the independent who will replace Snowe in January, Thursday added his support for a quick vote and Kayatta's confirmation.

"I'd be honored to vote for him, but for the country's sake, I hope it happens next week," King said in telephone interview.

The Senate Majority Office did not respond to inquiries about when and if judicial confirmation votes will be scheduled.

The federal appeals court in Boston is one legal rung below the U.S. Supreme Court. Kayatta would replace Judge Kermit Lipez, a South Portland resident who is taking senior judicial status.

Kayatta's confirmation vote in the full Senate was delayed by an election-year maneuver known as the "Thurmond Rule" or the "Leahy Rule," depending on which party's nominations it affects.

The maneuver was first attributed to the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C. Thurmond effectively blocked President Lyndon Johnson's 1968 nomination of Abe Fortas to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., has also used filibusters in presidential election years to block confirmation votes.

Confirmation votes for Kayatta and at least four other nominees to the federal bench have been held up since early summer.

Sens. Snowe and Collins vowed in July to join Democrats in an effort to end filibusters, but the 60 votes necessary to end the debate did not materialize. Following that, Reid decided against scheduling more confirmation votes.

Kayatta has declined comment during the confirmation process, but Snowe and Collins have effusively supported him, urging a confirmation vote and emphasizing the need to fill the open seat on the six-seat circuit court that hears cases from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico.

"Bill has a stellar record, the highest (American Bar Association) rating, the full support of Maine's Republican Senate delegation," Collins wrote to Reid and McConnell. "There should be no reason to delay a Senate vote on his nomination any further."

King criticized the maneuvering that led to the floor-vote delay.

"It is a perfect example of what is wrong with Congress," he said, adding he thinks all presidential nominations should receive up or down votes within 90 days unless there are extenuating circumstances.

"This is a deterrent to good people putting themselves forward," the senator-elect said. "Bill Kayatta's life has been on hold for a year."

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