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Menendez, Obama Showdown? Discord Over Third Circuit Nomination

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By Dyanna Quizon, Esq. on January 09, 2012 12:56 PM

President Barack Obama has probably gotten used to having his judicial nominations blocked by congressional Republicans. When it comes to Third Circuit Court of Appeals' nominee Patty Shwartz, however, President Obama has had to defend himself from a member of his own party.

In a rare bout between a president and a congressional member of his own party, Senator Robert Menendez has blocked President Obama's nomination for the Third Circuit.

Menendez is currently in the spotlight for being the first Democrat to block an Obama judicial appointment and said he risked drawing the president's ire because of Shwartz's lack of qualifications.

"Judge Shwartz did not adequately demonstrate the breadth of knowledge of constitutional law and pivotal Supreme Court decisions ... that we should expect from a U.S. Circuit Court judge," Menendez said in a statement.

In response, critics of Menendez's decision have reiterated Shwartz's accolades, including receiving the American Bar Association's highest possible rating, her experience as a federal magistrate judge in Newark, and her personal qualities as a judge, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

It has been hinted that Menendez's real issue with Shwartz was her 20-year relationship with James Nobile, the head of the public corruption unit for New Jersey's U.S. Attorney's Office. The unit had investigated Menendez in 2006 for his dealings with a nonprofit group. The senator has flatly denied the accusation that his block was made out of political resentment.

The Third Circuit's one judicial opening has been vacant since June. If Menendez does not turn in his "blue slip" to the Judiciary Committee indicating his support of Shwartz, the committee will not schedule a hearing on the nomination, according to Senator Patrick Leahy's office.

Although the White House has not directly responded to Menendez's current holdout, it has stated that it is hopeful Shwartz will be confirmed. It will be interesting to see how it will try to make that happen given Senator Robert Menendez's vocal misgivings regarding Judge Patty Shwartz's nomination.

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