U.S. Senate Republicans shut down a nomination hearing Wednesday for a Maine Supreme Judicial Court judge who has been nominated by President Obama for a federal judgeship.
Jon David Levy of Portland was in Washington to appear before the Judiciary Committee for the first time since his nomination in September, but Republicans invoked an obscure rule to force postponement of the hearing, according to staff members for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the committee chairman.
“The Republican shutdown of the Judiciary Committee is consistent with the obstruction we have witnessed over the last five years, which has led to record-high vacancies in federal courts throughout the country,” Leahy said in a prepared statement.
Levy was one of five nominees whose hearings were postponed Wednesday.
Republicans invoked the so-called two-hour rule, which prevents committees from holding hearings more than two hours after the Senate has convened for the day without the consent of all senators. The Senate convened at 10 a.m. Wednesday, and the hearing was scheduled for 2:30 p.m., after the two-hour limit, according to Leahy’s staff.
Levy, 59, needs a recommendation from the Judiciary Committee and approval from the full Senate to replace U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal, who assumed semi-retired status effective July 31.
Levy would be one of three full-time U.S. District Court judges in Maine. The others are John A. Woodcock, appointed by President George W. Bush, and Nancy Torresen, an Obama appointee. The District of Maine also has two federal magistrate judges.
Singal and Judge D. Brock Hornby have senior status and continue to hear cases on a semi-retired basis.
Wednesday’s delay was the latest Republican effort in the Senate to thwart Obama’s judicial nominees since Democrats changed the Senate’s filibuster procedures last month to prevent Republicans from blocking nominees by themselves.
Maine’s senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, met with Levy to express their disappointment that the hearing was postponed.
Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley said, “Senator Collins believes Judge Levy is well-qualified to serve on Maine’s federal District Court, and she had planned to testify at his hearing. She looks forward to doing so when it is rescheduled, which she hopes is soon.”
As Maine’s governor, King nominated Levy as a District Court judge in 1995 and nominated him to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in 2002.
“I am disappointed to see Judge Levy’s nomination delayed due to objections that have nothing to do with the merits of his candidacy, but rather are the result of political partisanship,” King said in a prepared statement. “His nomination, as should be the case with all nominations, deserves to move forward in a timely manner, and I will continue to work with Senator Collins in pursuit of that.”
Levy’s elevation could create a chain reaction of judicial nominations in Maine.
In mid-October, Gov. Paul LePage began soliciting applications for his Judicial Selection Committee to consider for future openings on the Supreme Judicial Court and at the District Court and Superior Court levels.
More than 60 applications were received, according to Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s spokeswoman, but she wouldn’t say who applied.
She referred a request for names filed under the state Freedom of Access Act to the governor’s counsel, who has five working days to respond.
Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at: