WASHINGTON — The Senate today unanimously confirmed Nancy Torresen to be a U.S. District Court judge for Maine.

Torresen was scheduled last week for a Senate floor vote, and her nomination was non-controversial enough that she won confirmation via a “unanimous consent” motion that did not require a roll call vote.

Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that the confirmation of Torresen and five other judicial nominees today, all but one by unanimous consent, should be the norm, not an unusual event in a Senate where it has become routine for even non-controversial nominees to languish for months waiting for a full Senate confirmation vote.

“I hope this is an indication that we will finally get moving,” Leahy said.

Torresen, an assistant U.S. attorney from Bangor, will be Maine’s first female federal judge after a nomination process that began in March when President Obama named her as his candidate for the seat held by Judge D. Brock Hornby, who last year assumed senior status but has continued to handle a full caseload.

Torresen’s nomination was cleared in late May by the Senate Judiciary Committee, with all senators present voting in favor of her nomination, including the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Grassley today spoke on the Senate floor and defended the pace of judicial confirmations, adding that there have been instances of the president being slow to name a nominee to an opening.

“We are not here to merely rubber stamp the nominees,” Grassley said. “Sometimes this process takes a little time.”

Torresen’s nomination to the district court seat, which pays $174,000 annually, also was strongly supported by GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, who are not members of the judiciary committee.

In lauding Torresen at her May 4 nomination hearing, Collins and Snowe said that Torresen, 51, brings a diversity of trial and appellate experience to the federal bench. They noted that Torresen also spent time assigned to the Maine Attorney General’s Office as a prosecutor representing the state in appeals of serious crime convictions before returning in 2001 to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, based in Bangor, where she has investigated and prosecuted violent crimes.

Both Maine senators praised Torresen’s confirmation today, as did Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District and Mike Michaud of the 2nd District.

Torresen said at her Senate hearing in May that she would be as open-minded as possible in listening to arguments and delving into the facts of a case.

At the same time, her decisions would be governed by established law and judicial precedents, and she would try to resolve cases “as narrowly as possible,” Torresen said.

Torresen’s husband, Jay McCloskey, is a former U.S. attorney for Maine during the Clinton administration.

Meanwhile, the Maine legal community is awaiting a White House nomination for a U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals opening.

Michaud and Pingree recommended in late May that President Obama nominate Maine Supreme Judicial Court Judge Jon Levy of Portland or William Kayatta Jr. of Cape Elizabeth, a partner in Pierce Atwood in Portland, to fill the seat being vacated by Judge Kermit Lipez.

The Maine Democrats make judicial nomination recommendations to the Democratic Obama administration because both senators are Republicans. Obama has not yet nominated someone for the 1st Circuit seat, though, and if the White House waits too long to make a nomination there is a danger the nominee will get snarled in election year delays.

Lipez will assume senior status by Dec. 31, or when his replacement is confirmed, but said last week that he would maintain a full caseload until June 2012.

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at: [email protected] Twitter: Twitter.com/MaineTodayDC.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.