Toomey Update: Two judges confirmed for PA’s Eastern District including first Latina

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Last week, the Senate voted to confirm Judges Nitza Quiñones Alejandro and Jeffrey Schmehl as U.S. District Judges for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. President Obama nominated these two judges last November upon a joint recommendation from Sen. Bob Casey and me.

Since joining the Senate, I’ve worked closely with Sen. Casey to fill Pennsylvania’s judicial vacancies with qualified, experienced judges who have unquestioned honesty, ability and integrity. I believe both of these individuals meet this high standard.

In her 21 years on the bench, Nitza Quiñones Alejandro has presided over many cases incorporating different facets of the law. In addition to her extensive experience in the courtroom, she has also remained active in her community through her work with schools and mentoring summer law interns. She is eminently qualified and a committed public servant. Moreover, I am proud that Judge Quiñones will be the first Latina judge to serve in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Jeffrey Schmehl’s colleagues appointed him president judge of the Berks County Court of Common Pleas in 2008, a sign of his fitness for the bench. He has also helped veterans in need of legal assistance by working to establish a veterans court in Berks County. He has a passion for the law and will be a dedicated jurist. I also am pleased that Judge Schmehl will be sitting in the Reading federal courthouse which has long needed a new judge.

I am confident that Judges Quiñones and Schmehl will serve Pennsylvania well.

UPDATE ON SARAH MURNAGHAN

Ten-year-old Sarah Murnaghan and her family received good news on Wednesday. A donor lung became available and Sarah was able to get the transplant she desperately needed due to end-stage cystic fibrosis.

I am thrilled for Sarah and her family, but mindful and deeply grateful to the organ donor and his or her family. Sarah has a new chance at life, but another family is dealing with a great loss.

So far, the lung transplant has gone well, but we should all keep Sarah in our prayers over the coming days. Fortunately, she is being treated at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which is a first-rate facility with some of best doctors and nurses in the country.

Sarah’s case has also highlighted the misguided policy regarding lung transplants for those under 12. The organ network met Monday evening and acknowledged that the status quo is flawed with respect to younger kids.

It established a new policy where cases like Sarah’s can be reviewed; however, I remain concerned about a seven-day waiting period while a panel reviews the facts. During this period, a child would effectively remain at the bottom of the adult transplant list regardless of his or her medical need.

The issue could be solved today if Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius would use the authority granted to her by existing law to stop the discrimination against children under the age of 12. Medical need and suitability, not age, should be the main criteria in determining how lung transplants are prioritized.

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