WASHINGTON — Las Vegas federal public defender Richard Boulware fielded only a single question on Wednesday — and a friendly one at that — as senators considered his nomination to become a U.S. District judge in Nevada.
Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the attorney was invited to talk about his experience and how it will play into his performance if he is confirmed to fill a final vacancy in the state’s federal district court system.
Boulware, who has been an attorney in the federal public defender’s office in Las Vegas since 2007, responded he has taken more than 15 criminal trials to verdict in Nevada and previously as a public defender in New York. He said he has taken the lead on complex white-collar cases for the past three years, but also has handled a variety of other cases presented to the office.
“I believe all of that, if fortunate to be confirmed, will serve me well,” he told the questioner, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., whose follow-up was to note that the Las Vegan was born at the Mayo Clinic in her home state.
“That worked out well for you,” she said to laughter from the audience that included Boulware’s wife and three children and members of their extended family, along with family members of four other nominees facing the committee on Wednesday.
The relaxed tone to Boulware’s session appears to signal a smooth path ahead for the nominee, according to a legal analyst. “I think this will be smooth sailing. I don’t see any red flags at all,” said Carl Tobias, a former professor at the Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Tobias, who follows judicial politics as a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, said it was significant that Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a notoriously close questioner of many nominees, took a pass at asking anything of Boulware in the public session.
Boulware, 45, also was boosted by strong endorsements from both Nevada senators.
“This is a good man and a good candidate to be a judge for life,” said Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, who selected Boulware and passed his name to the White House for nomination.
Reid noted Boulware has volunteered as an attorney to help homeless veterans in Las Vegas and has been active in the local NAACP. He is past president of the Las Vegas chapter of the National Bar Association, the organization of predominantly African-American lawyers and judges.
“He’s not just naked from being in the court all the time,” Reid said. “He has entered public service in many different ways.”
Republican Sen. Dean Heller has opposed several of Reid’s choices for federal judge, but not Boulware. Heller showed up at the Senate hearing and told fellow senators Boulware was “an outstanding Nevadan.”
“The next step is a committee vote, which I assume will be unanimous, and then to the Senate floor, and Reid (as Senate majority leader) can move that,” Tobias said.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at STetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.