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Appeals court nominee from Oklahoma still awaiting U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn's consent for hearing

President Barack Obama nominated U.S. magistrate judge Robert E. Bacharach, of Oklahoma, in January for a seat on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Sen. Tom Coburn has not given the nod for a hearing.
by Chris Casteel Published: April 30, 2012

— Three months after President Barack Obama nominated federal magistrate Judge Robert E. Bacharach for a long-vacant seat on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Sen. Tom Coburn has yet to give approval for a Senate hearing.

Bacharach, of Edmond, has received the highest possible rating from the American Bar Association and has been vetted by the U.S. Justice Department and the White House. He has handled more than 3,000 civil and criminal matters as a magistrate judge in Oklahoma City.

The Senate Judiciary Committee won't hold a hearing for a judicial nominee unless the two home-state senators give their consent by returning “blue slips,” a long-standing committee tradition.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, gave his consent more than a month ago for a hearing on Bacharach and for Tulsa attorney John Dowdell, who has been nominated for a vacant federal district judgeship position in Tulsa.

Coburn, R-Muskogee, a member of the committee, has withheld his consent for hearings for Bacharach and Dowdell.

‘Regular order'

In a statement, Coburn spokeswoman Becky Bernhardt said Coburn was waiting on the Senate Judiciary Committee before giving his consent for hearings for Bacharach and Dowdell.

“Per regular order, Dr. Coburn will return the blue slip once the committee review of Judge Bacharach and Mr. Dowdell's nomination materials is complete,” Bernhardt said.

“These are lifetime appointments; thus, the Senate has a duty to conduct a careful review of their nominations before proceeding. Based on the initial review of their records, they both appear to be qualified candidates who have earned the respect of their colleagues in the Oklahoma legal community.”

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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Some hearings come quickly

The time between nomination and a committee hearing varies.

However, nine of the 14 people nominated for circuit court positions in the past 12 months have had a hearing within two months of their nomination. The same day Judge Robert E. Bacharach was nominated for the 10th circuit post — Jan. 23 — President Barack Obama also named a nominee for the First Circuit court; that nominee had a hearing March 14.

The last time there was an Oklahoman nominated for a 10th Circuit opening, the process moved much quicker. In 2006, former President George W. Bush, a Republican, nominated Oklahoma City attorney Jerome Holmes for an open seat on the court, and Holmes' hearing was held five weeks later, with the support of Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe.

Holmes had no judicial experience. Bacharach has been a U.S. magistrate judge in the western district of Oklahoma since 1999.

Tulsa attorney John Dowdell was nominated for the federal judgeship in Tulsa after opposition from Coburn and Inhofe forced the White House to withdraw the nomination of federal prosecutor Arvo Mikkanen.


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