PITTSBURGH (AP) _ President Barack Obama has nominated a federal prosecutor from Pittsburgh to fill a seat on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The nomination of Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Ross Haywood was made March 15, a day before the president nominated District of Columbia Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Garland’s nomination is expected to set off a high-profile partisan battle between the president and Senate Republicans, but Haywood’s nomination could also prompt a bitter _ if far less-publicized _ confirmation process.
If Haywood, 47, is confirmed by the Senate, she’ll become the first Black woman to serve on the court, which sits in Philadelphia. She’s currently chief of the appellate division in Pittsburgh, which prosecutes cases in 25 western Pennsylvania counties. The circuit court handles appeals from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey has said he doesn’t think Haywood is qualified and some Republicans have urged opposing any of the president’s judicial nominations until his term expires. Among other things, Toomey said Haywood “struggled to answer legal questions” about some Obama executive orders that blocked illegal immigrants from being deported, a hot-button issue among conservative Republicans.
Toomey said that since he’s been in the Senate, every other federal judicial nomination has been approved by him and fellow Pennsylvanian, Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, which Toomey said is common in states with senators from opposing parties.
“Instead of blowing up a bipartisan working arrangement, the president should take a step back, put an end to this political theater, withdraw a nomination that is not suitable for such an important lifetime position,” Toomey said in a statement.
Toomey also said Wednesday that Obama shouldn’t nominate a replacement for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia before leaving office. Toomey is up for re-election and four Democrats are vying for the chance to oppose him as the party targets his seat in the swing state. Toomey said he’d consider Garland if he were nominated by whoever succeeds Obama.
Casey issued a statement saying Republicans should fairly consider Garland and that Haywood should be given “a fair hearing and timely vote.”
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney David Hickton in Pittsburgh said Wednesday that Haywood wasn’t available for comment Wednesday. Hickton issued a statement calling Haywood “a lawyer of unparalleled legal ability and judgment” who “will make an outstanding judge.”