U.S. Senate confirms Pa. judge to federal appeals court seat
January 12, 2016 12:00 AM
Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo
By Tracie Mauriello / Post-Gazette Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — He’s been a public defender, a law professor, a magistrate judge, a district judge and an attorney in private practice. Now Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo can add federal appellate judge to his resume, too.
In an 82-6 vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Restrepo to fill a long-open vacancy on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears cases from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
He currently serves on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The confirmation came 14 months after Judge Restrepo’s nomination, frustrating Democrats who blamed U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., for slowing the process in order to frustrate Democrats or to delay action until 2017 when a new president, possibly a Republican, might pick more conservative judges. Critics say Mr. Toomey failed to pressure GOP leaders to schedule a vote and took too long to return a “blue slip” that senators sign to indicate support for home-state nominees.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said Judge Restrepo was a consensus nominee who should have been quickly confirmed. Instead, he said, Judge Restrepo became a victim of Republicans’ “wholesale obstruction of judicial nominees.”
Former congressman Joe Sestak, who is running in the Democratic primary for Mr. Toomey’s seat, joined the chorus of criticism. “Toomey’s role in delaying the process reveals his legacy of obstructionism and ineffective governance,” Mr. Sestak said in a written statement Monday.
Mr. Toomey has said that he has always supported Judge Restrepo. In fact, he and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., recommended the judge to President Barack Obama.
“I’m very confident that Judge Restrepo has the judicial experience, the legal acumen, the intelligence, the integrity and the dedication to public service to do the job that we expect him to do,” Mr. Toomey said on the Senate floor before Monday evening’s vote.
Mr. Casey also spoke in the judge’s favor.
Voting no were Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah; James Inhofe, R-Okla; James Risch, R-Idaho; Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; and Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
“This nominee is someone who is qualified by way of intellect, also by education, and maybe the most important thing is by the way of integrity,” Mr. Casey said.
A spokeswoman for Judge Restrepo said he would not comment until after he is sworn in. It wasn’t immediately clear when that would be.
Washington Bureau chief Tracie Mauriello: firstname.lastname@example.org; 1-703-996-9292 or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets.
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