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Burr set to help approve Republican federal judge

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U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

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By Lindell John Kay
Staff Writer

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Local Democratic lawmakers at the state and federal level claim a just re-elected U.S. senator is poised to approve a Republican nominee for federal judge in Eastern North Carolina after blocking liberal appointments for years.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., blocked two judicial nominees for a vacancy in the Eastern District of North Carolina, which is classified as a judicial emergency and at more than a decade is the longest running vacancy in the nation.

Burr's judicial nominee obstruction is unprecedented, said U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-1st District.

“Senators should not politicize the court,” Butterfield said. “They have an obligation to seriously consider any judicial nominee offered by the President of the United States.”

The Eastern District judicial vacancy is the longest vacant judgeship in the United States, remaining unfilled since Dec. 31, 2005. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts declared the vacancy a judicial emergency.

Burr blocked two nominees: federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker and Justice Pat Timmons-Goodson. Both are black.

“It cannot be overlooked that no African-American has ever served on the bench in the Eastern District,” Butterfield said.

Putting forward Timmons-Goodson was a brazenly political nomination, Burr said in a statement provided by Becca Glover Watkins, the communications director for Burr's office.

Burr named a long list of Obama nominees he supported for judge.

“I have always worked in good faith with the White House on North Carolina nominees, and expect the same respect in return,” Burr said.

N.C. Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, said the main problem is that Burr got what he wanted. He stalled long enough for a Republican president to win election.

“It was very clear this was a judicial emergency, but the people's access to justice was of no corner to him. All Sen. Burr cared about was partisan advantage,” Bryant said.

Burr neglected his constitutional and democratic responsibilities to the people of North Carolina, Bryant said.

“Now that we will have a Republican nominees, Sen. Burr will probably appoint the first one that comes along, but what we needed was a black judge in a predominantly black region.”

Burr also refused to consider Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and vowed to prevent Hillary Clinton, had she became president, from appointing any nominees.

In a CNN-released audio recording, Burr bragged, “I have the longest judicial vacancy in the history of the United States in the Eastern District of North Carolina.” Prior to the election, Burr vowed, “if Hillary Clinton becomes president I’m going to do everything I can do to make sure that four years from now, we’ve still got an opening on the Supreme Court.”

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