WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Richard Boulware of Las Vegas to become U.S. District judge, restocking a federal bench in Nevada that was shorthanded for more than three years.
Boulware, a Las Vegas native, graduate of Harvard and a federal public defender, was elevated in a 58 to 35 vote in a confirmation process that was largely noncontroversial. The post is a lifetime position that at present pays $199,100 annually.
The confirmation restores the U.S. district court in Nevada to its full complement of seven authorized active judges. The court has been shorthanded since May 2011 when Judge Roger Hunt took part-time status, followed seven months later by Judge Philip Pro.
The vacancy has been declared a “judicial emergency” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts based on how long it was open combined with the workload of the Nevada district, where there has been a 226 increase in pending cases over the past two years.
While criminal cases get priority in the courts because of federal “speedy justice” laws, a full judge lineup in Nevada should mean faster justice for litigants in civil cases, according to Carl Tobias, Williams Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.
“Civil cases will move more quickly,” Tobias said. “Litigants will have more jury trials. They will have their cases resolved sooner. There will be less pressure on judges, all of which is good both for the judges in Nevada and for litigants and lawyers who seek federal justice.”
Reno attorney Miranda Du was confirmed a federal judge in March 2012 to succeed Hunt. Judges Andrew Gordon and Jennifer Dorsey also were confirmed in the meantime, but Pro’s position remained open until now.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and President Barack Obama nominated Clark County district judge Elissa Cadish to the seat in February 2012 but she was blocked by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., when questions arose about her position on gun rights. Cadish withdrew her nomination in March 2013.
Reid and Heller had an easier time agreeing on Boulware, 45, a popular local attorney and former leader in the Las Vegas NAACP. He will become the first African-American male federal judge in the state. Johnnie Rawlinson, now a judge in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, became the first African-American on the Nevada federal bench in 1998.
“As the demographics of our state, and even our country, continue to shift, the people who make up the judiciary should resemble the communities they serve,” said Laura Martin, communications director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada in praising the confirmation.
Reid said Tuesday that Boulware “will be just as good as any member of the bench we have in Nevada.” Heller called him “an excellent example of an accomplished nominee who should be confirmed on a bipartisan basis.”
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at STetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC.