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Four years later, no progress on filling 7th Circuit seat

Federal Judge Terence Evans died Wednesday night in Chicago, according to collegues. (WLJ file photo)

Terence Evans (WLJ file photo)

Though more than four years have passed since Terence Evans vacated his seat on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a U.S. Senator said he and a nominating committee still need to discuss the nomination procedure before they can begin the process of filling the spot.

Evans took senior status in January 2010. He died the following year of a respiratory illness.

Since then, a nomination was put forth by President Barack Obama, but the Senate never gave its approval.

And it’s unclear when that may happen. An email attributed to Melinda Schnell, spokeswoman for Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said Johnson and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., plan to meet with the Federal Nominating Commission “to conduct an after action review before beginning the process for filling the Seventh Circuit Judgeship.”

A message left with Leah Hunter, Baldwin’s spokeswoman, was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Federal judge nominations in Wisconsin normally are vetted and chosen by the nominating commission, which is run by the Wisconsin State Bar. Three or four names are given to the senators, and they make a recommendation to the president. If the president approves the nomination, it goes to the full Senate for approval.

In the past year, the commission has vetted and given the senators nominations for vacancies in the Eastern and Western districts of Wisconsin.

This week, Judge John Tinder announced his plans to retire from the appellate court sometime in 2015. He opted not to take senior status, but instead fully step down and “search out something different.”

The last person Obama nominated to fill Evan’s seat was former University of Wisconsin Professor Victoria Nourse in July 2010. However, her nomination was never approved by the Senate. And Johnson took umbrage with not being involved in the nomination process, even though it was handled before he took office.

Nourse – the daughter-in-law of senior appeals Judge Richard Cudahy – withdrew her name for consideration in 2012. She is now a professor at Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C. She did not immediately return a phone call left Wednesday morning.

Chad Oldfather, a professor at Marquette University Law School, said Obama’s administration “has been generally slow to make its nominations … and the Senate has been unwilling to move on the ones that have [been nominated].”

A similar instance happened with former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, whom Obama nominated in 2009 to fill a vacant seat in the Western District of Wisconsin. The Senate would not confirm the nomination, and the seat is vacant, though Obama nominated Godfrey & Kahn SC shareholder James Peterson for the seat in November.


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