Senators block Oklahoma City federal prosecutor from judge post

Opposition from Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe effectively kills chances for Arvo Mikkanen, an assistant U.S. attorney in Oklahoma City, who would have been the only American Indian on the federal bench.
BY CHRIS CASTEEL ccasteel@opubco.com Modified: December 18, 2011 at 12:24 am •  Published: December 18, 2011

— Faced with unrelenting — and mostly unexplained — opposition from Oklahoma's senators, the U.S. Senate on Saturday sent back to the White House the nomination of Arvo Mikkanen to be a federal judge in Tulsa.

Mikkanen, a highly-praised prosecutor in Oklahoma City, never got a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee because of opposition from Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, and Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa.

If he had been confirmed, Mikkanen would have been the only enrolled member of an American Indian tribe on the federal bench.

Unanimous rating

Mikkanen was nominated by President Barack Obama in February to be a U.S. district judge in Tulsa. The American Bar Association gave him a unanimous rating of qualified, a step below the highest rating of well qualified.

A member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and president of the Oklahoma Indian Bar Association, Mikkanen has handled criminal and civil cases in his 16 years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Oklahoma City. And he has extensive legal experience in Indian Country, serving on U.S. Interior Department courts for tribes that don't have their own judiciary.

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