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Eye On Boise

Confirmation of Nye as next Idaho federal judge on Senate Judiciary agenda for tomorrow morning

Idaho Judge David Nye’s nomination to be the state’s next federal district judge is on the agenda for the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning, and it appears a committee vote is likely within the week. Nye already won unanimous approval from the committee after a hearing in June of 2016, but the nomination never came up for a vote in the full Senate. Last month, at the urging of Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, President Trump re-nominated Nye.

Idaho has been down to just one active federal district judge since longtime Judge Edward Lodge took senior status on July 3, 2015. The federal court system has declared a judicial emergency in Idaho due to the shortage of judges, and visiting judges have been brought in from other states to hear cases.

A spokesman for the Judiciary Committee wouldn’t say if the committee will vote on Nye tomorrow, but Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who closely tracks judicial nominations, said his appearance on the agenda appears to signal that committee Chairman Charles Grassley has decided there’s no need for another hearing. “I think that’s what it does mean,” Tobias said. “Now whether they’ll vote is less clear, because the minority can automatically hold it over for a week. They might, but they might not. … I think this is a clear sign that Grassley thinks they don’t need another hearing, and I’m sure he’s cleared that with Feinstein. So all they really need is a vote, and at worst, it might come next week if not this week.”

Crapo this year joined the Senate Judiciary Committee, in part to help shepherd through the long-stalled nomination, and also to push for Idaho to get a third federal district judgeship.

Lindsay Nothern, Crapo's press secretary, said today that he expects a week's delay after tomorrow's meeting, followed by a voice vote in the committee. "He's been through the process before," Nothern said. "We do expect his nomination to move forward."

Crapo and Risch negotiated with the Obama Administration for a year and a half before settling on Nye as a nominee acceptable to both President Obama, a Democrat, and the two Idaho senators, both Republicans. The long process included considering and rejecting dozens of other possible nominees.

Nye, 58, has been an Idaho 6th District judge since 2007; prior to that, he practiced law in Pocatello for 20 years, specializing in medical malpractice and insurance law. He holds both bachelor’s and law degrees from Brigham Young University.

Tobias called the scheduled meeting tomorrow “great news” for Idaho. “He could well be confirmed this month,” he said. “All they have to do is have the vote in the committee; I’m sure there won’t be any opposition there. … And then a floor vote, which (Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell can schedule as soon as he comes out of committee.”

Tobias said this is exactly the process he’s been arguing in favor of – to get long-vacant judicial openings filled and the courts back up to functional levels. “I think the senators had a lot to do with it,” he said of Crapo and Risch. “They stood by him all the way through, and I think went to the White House and argued for it, and now hopefully it’ll happen. I think that’s great. That’s the way the system ought to work.”

Nye’s name is among a long list of nominees on tomorrow morning’s Judiciary Committee agenda for an executive business meeting. Others on the list include Noel J. Francisco, nominated to be solicitor general of the United States; Scott Palk, nominated to be a federal district judge for the Western District of Oklahoma; and Lee Francis Cissna, nominated to be director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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