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Clark County judge, UNLV professor confirmed to federal judgeships

Updated March 23, 2022 - 7:31 pm

WASHINGTON – Two judicial vacancies in Nevada considered “emergencies” were filled Wednesday when the Senate voted to confirm Clark County District Court Judge Cristina Silva and UNLV professor Anne Traum to the federal bench.

The state had two vacancies, both created when judges took senior status in 2016 and 2018. The openings were considered “judicial emergencies” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

The Senate voted 50-46 to confirm Silva, with Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rob Portman of Ohio joining Democrats in support.

Traum was confirmed, 49-47, with yes votes from Collins, Murkowski and Graham.

Silva and Traum were recommended to the White House for nomination by Nevada Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, both Democrats.

President Joe Biden nominated them in November 2021.

Cortez Masto asked for the roll call vote for Silva from the Senate floor. Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin sought the vote on Traum.

“I am thrilled the Senate voted to confirm two extremely qualified judges for the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada: Judge Cristina Silva and Professor Anne Traum,” said U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, in a statement released after the vote. “These two seats have been open for years, which has caused enormous strain on Nevada’s federal district court. Having these judges in place will benefit Nevadans pursuing their claims in court.”

Said Cortez Masto: “Judge Silva and Professor Traum are both incredibly qualified women with track records of fairness, integrity, and knowledge of the law. I’m glad that both nominees have been confirmed to the federal bench in Nevada, and I know they will serve our state well.”

Close votes

Both Nevada nominees were part of a slate of 11 nominees that the Senate took up, and part of President Joe Biden’s push to diversify the federal bench.

Silva and Traum were voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last year on 12-10 votes, with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the only Republican on the panel voting to advance the nominations.

“Silva and Traum had relatively straightforward confirmation processes, because they are very experienced, well-qualified, mainstream nominees, who had strong support from the Nevada senators,” said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond School of Law professor.

“The Nevada vacancies were protracted emergencies that needed to be filled ASAP,” said Tobias, a founding faculty of the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law..

Biden on Nov. 3, 2021 nominated Silva and Traum to fill vacancies in Las Vegas and Reno that have been vacant since 2018 and 2016, respectively.

Because of the length of the vacancies, they were declared “emergencies.” Nevada has just seven seats on its U.S. District Court bench.

Diversifying the bench

Biden has moved quickly to nominate a diverse slate of candidates for federal courts. The Senate has confirmed more than 40 of his nominees, with three fourths of those women and more than half being people of color. By contrast, three-fourths of former President Donald Trump’s nominees were white and male, according to the liberal-leaning Alliance for Justice.

“Both new judges exemplify Biden’s efforts to diversify the bench,” Tobias said.

Silva affords ethnic and gender diversity. She also brings experience as a federal prosecutor and as someone who worked closely with the families and victims of the Oct. 1 Las Vegas shootings, he noted.

Traum offers gender diversity. She worked as a defense lawyer before teaching at UNLV, Tobias said.

Traum was previously nominated for a federal bench by President Barack Obama, and received Judiciary Committee recommendation in 2016, but did not receive a Senate vote when Republicans halted judicial confirmations to keep open the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Her nomination died for lack of action. She was again nominated by Biden last year.

Silva was appointed to her judicial post in 2019 by Gov. Steve Sisolak.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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