February 16, 2022

Durbin Responds to Senator Johnson Withholding Blue Slip for Eastern District of Wisconsin Nominee

Durbin: Senator Johnson is blocking this Committee from proceeding on a nominee that he recommended to President Biden

WASHINGTON – During today’s Senate Judiciary Committee nominations hearing, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, addressed a statement that Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) issued last night indicating he would not return a blue slip on Judge William Pocan, nominated to the Eastern District of Wisconsin.  Judge Pocan was scheduled to appear at today’s hearing, but the traditional practice of the Committee is not to proceed with hearings on district court nominees until both of their home state Senators return a blue slip.

The bipartisan Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission recommended Judge Pocan to Senators Baldwin and Johnson.  And Senators Baldwin and Johnson recommended Judge Pocan to the White House as one of the four candidates to fill the Eastern District of Wisconsin vacancy in June.  Therefore, Senator Johnson is blocking the Judiciary Committee from proceeding on a nominee that he recommended to President Biden.

“According to Senator Johnson’s statement, he is withholding a blue slip on this nomination because Judge Pocan does not currently live in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  But as I understand it, Judge Pocan does live nearby and has made it clear that he would relocate to Green Bay,” Durbin said.  “What’s more, Senator Johnson knew full well back in June that Judge Pocan did not live in Green Bay at this time.  Yet that did not prevent the bipartisan Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission from recommending Judge Pocan to Senators Baldwin and Johnson.  And it did not prevent Senator Johnson from joining Senator Baldwin in recommending Judge Pocan to the White House as one of the four candidates to fill the Eastern District of Wisconsin vacancy.  Let me emphasize that point—Senator Johnson is blocking this Committee from proceeding on a nominee he recommended to President Biden.”

Durbin continued, “I would also like to note that I am disappointed in Senator Johnson’s lack of communication about his intention to withhold his blue slip.  Senator Johnson’s staff did not respond to four separate communications from my staff sent over the course of nearly a month.  Despite these efforts, my office learned secondhand that Senator Johnson would prevent Mr. Pocan from going forward at 7:00 o’clock last night.  Such a lack of communication is unacceptable and, frankly, disrespectful to the nominee and his family.”

Durbin concluded, “I hope that Senator Johnson will rethink his opposition.  Judge Pocan received a rating of unanimously ‘Well Qualified’ from the American Bar Association.  He has extensive experience as a sitting state court judge and, before that… a commercial litigator.  He has the temperament that we are looking for in all judges.  I also hope that Senator Johnson’s position is not an indication of any procedures to come in the future.  It would be a disservice to litigants, to the administration of justice, and to the Judiciary.”

Video of Durbin’s remarks is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks is available here for TV Stations.

During the four years of Trump’s Presidency, Democrats returned 130 blue slips on 88 district court nominees.  Eighty-five of those nominees were ultimately confirmed.  The Senate confirmed 168 Trump district court nominees who required a blue slip.  This means that more than 50 percent of confirmed district court nominees who required a blue slip moved forward only because Democrats negotiated in good faith with the White House and allowed those nominations to proceed.

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