WASHINGTON – During today’s Senate Judiciary Committee nominations hearing, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, questioned Jacquelyn D. Austin, nominated to be United States District Judge for the District of South Carolina; Jacqueline Becerra, nominated to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Florida; Melissa Damian, nominated to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Florida; David Seymour Leibowitz, nominated to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Florida; Julie Simone Sneed, nominated to be United States District Judge for the Middle District of Florida; and Kirk Edward Sherriff, nominated to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of California.
“You have gone through not only the White House scrutiny, you’ve gone through the American Bar Association scrutiny. They have found every single one of you ‘Well Qualified’ and I accept that decision and don’t quarrel with it,” Durbin said. “Then you went through the scrutiny of both Democrats and Republicans in this Committee and who brought you to this table. So congratulations for sitting in those chairs and I wish you the best.”
Durbin then asked each nominee, “The question is who is the one person in your life who was an inspiration or role model or mentor that you think is more responsible than any one for you sitting at this table?”
Judge Austin said that Judge Matthew Perry was the biggest influence in her legal career. “He was not only a consummate jurist, he was the epitome of grace, dignity, respect, thoughtfulness on the bench. He made sure that everyone that came before him understood that they were going to have a fair trial, fair hearing in front of him, and that he was going to give them his full attention and make whatever decision he made was with all due diligence. And I hope that I can replicate his characteristics as a judge if I’m confirmed,” Judge Austin said.
Judge Becerra said that her parents were her greatest influence. Judge Damian said that professionally, Judge Ursula Mancusi Ungaro was her inspiration. “Judge Ungaro for whom I clerked and who is my mentor was really my inspiration to get to this point,” said Judge Damian.
Mr. Leibowitz said that his parents were his greatest inspiration. “If I am so fortunate to be confirmed, it is her [Mr. Leibowitz’s mother] decency and it is her disposition that [I] would take [to] the bench,” said Mr. Leibowitz.
Judge Sneed said that her mother, grandmother, and her great-grandmother are her inspiration. “I was raised by a family of matriarchs. None of them attended college and they were not wealthy. But they were full of passion, determination, and optimism. They worked incredibly hard and really provided a stable foundation for their family and gave us family values that I carry with me here today,” said Judge Sneed.
Mr. Sherriff said, “Unequivocally, my mother. Growing up, I saw how hard she worked to support the family while earning her education over many years. And the value of that that she put into and demonstrated for me and my sisters was unequivocally the motivation for me to go on and do the things that I have done.”
Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.
Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.
Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here for TV Stations.
Today’s hearing continues the Committee’s work filling judicial and executive vacancies with highly qualified, diverse candidates who help ensure the fair and impartial administration of the American justice system. Under the leadership of Chair Durbin, the Senate has confirmed 156 judges to lifetime appointments on the federal bench during the Biden administration. Seventeen lifetime judges – including three circuit court nominees and twelve district court nominees – are eligible for a vote on the Senate floor.