WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday nominated Robert E. Bacharach, a federal magistrate judge in Oklahoma City, for a position on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, ending for now a long-running White House effort to replace Robert H. Henry on the Denver-based court.
Bacharach, a Mississippi native, has been a U.S. magistrate judge since 1999 for the Western District of Oklahoma and has handled nearly 3,000 criminal and civil matters, according to the White House.
Dan Webber, formerly the U.S. attorney for the Western District, said Monday, “Judge Bacharach is an extraordinarily qualified nominee for the appellate court.
“Having appeared before him in both criminal and civil cases, I can say from experience he is very smart, very focused and always asks the right questions about the law and facts … I hope he is confirmed quickly.”
‘I like the guy,' Inhofe says
It appeared Monday that Bacharach might clear an initial hurdle toward confirmation — agreement from his home-state senators for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing for him.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, praised the selection.
“I like the guy,” Inhofe said. “I told him that it's not very often the White House and I agree on anything.”
A spokeswoman for Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, said Monday that Coburn wanted to review the full background report from the FBI and Judiciary Committee. But she said the senator believes Bacharach “has many excellent credentials and comes highly recommended from lawyers and judges in Oklahoma.”
One of those lawyers is Mike Turpen, of Oklahoma City, who sent Bacharach's name to Coburn last year after it became clear that Coburn didn't want the White House to nominate Janet Levit, the dean of the University of Tulsa law school, who was being vetted for the position.
In an interview with The Oklahoman in September, Turpen, a former state attorney general and longtime Democratic fundraiser, said Coburn asked him to send him a list of names for consideration for the 10th circuit position, which has been vacant since July 2010 when Robert Henry resigned to become president of Oklahoma City University.
Turpen said Coburn wanted a list of “qualified Democrats with judicial experience.” On Monday, Turpen said Bacharach was an excellent choice.
Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, the only Democrat in Oklahoma's congressional delegation, also endorsed Bacharach, saying he is “a dedicated public servant who will serve the people of the 10th circuit with distinction. He will bring a wealth of experience to the position. I look forward to a speedy confirmation.”
Education, work history
Before the White House focused on Levit, it reportedly was considering Washington, D.C., attorney Keith Harper to succeed Henry. Harper is a member of the Cherokee Nation, but he is not an Oklahoman. Members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation objected strongly to the idea of him getting a coveted judicial post that would traditionally go to an Oklahoman.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is a step below the U.S. Supreme Court and hears cases from Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico.
Bacharach received his bachelor's degree in 1981 from the University of Oklahoma, graduating with high honors. He received his law degree in 1985 from the Washington University School of Law.
Bacharach served for two years as a law clerk to the Honorable William J. Holloway, Jr., of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. In 1987, he joined the Oklahoma City law firm of Crowe & Dunlevy.
The White House on Monday stressed Bacharach's judicial experience, saying he had presided over more than 400 judicial settlement conferences and had issued more than 1,600 reports and recommendations on a range of legal matters.