Two Biden judicial nominees withdraw from consideration

By Nate Raymond

Jan 9 (Reuters) - A state court judge in Washington state and a law clerk to a federal judge in Rochester, New York who were both nominated by President Joe Biden to become federal trial court judges have withdrawn their names from further consideration.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Charnelle Bjelkengren and Colleen Holland of Rochester were two of five nominees whose nominations to life-tenured positions on the bench expired at the end of 2023 and were not among 18 nominees the White House resubmitted on Monday for further consideration by the Senate.

While the fate of the other three is unclear — Biden could still re-nominate them at a later date — Bjelkengren and Holland in separate emails to Reuters confirmed they had asked the White House to not resubmit their names to the Democratic-led Senate.

Bjelkengren, who had been tapped to serve in the Eastern District of Washington, had generated Republican opposition after she could not answer questions posed during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January 2023 by Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana about the Constitution.

"I asked the President not to re-nominate me due to the uncertainty of my confirmation, and in order to advance the important work of the federal judiciary," Bjelkengren said. "My hope is for the swift confirmation of the next nominee."

Holland called her choice to withdraw from consideration "a personal decision made after careful consideration."

The Rochester native was nominated to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York at the recommendation of New York's two Democratic senators, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Holland was 39 when she was nominated, making her one of Biden's youngest judicial nominees to a life-tenured position on the bench.

A spokesperson for Schumer on Tuesday said the senator respected Holland's decision and that he would "move expeditiously with the administration to nominate a person for this important judicial position."

Holland has worked at the district court since 2014, primarily clerking for Chief Judge Elizabeth Wolford, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, who is the first woman to serve on that court.

At the time of her nomination, she was serving as special counsel to the judge and had worked as a career law clerk to her since 2018.

The other nominees who were not re-nominated on Monday include Scott Colom, a Mississippi district attorney whose judicial nomination was blocked last year by one of his Republican home state senators, Cindy Hyde-Smith.

The other two nominees outstanding are District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Todd Edelman, who was nominated to be a federal judge in Washington, and San Diego Superior Court Judge Marian Gaston, nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

Colom declined to comment. Other nominees could not be reached for comment.