Washington – New Haven Corporation Counsel Victor Allen Bolden was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Thursday to a federal judgeship in Connecticut on a narrow 49-46 vote.
All Senate Republicans opposed the nomination of Bolden, 49, who has served as an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and as a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Four moderate Democrats also voted “no” on the nomination. They were Sens. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Heidi Heitcamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana.
Bolden’s nomination to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut had been controversial since it was considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee in September. All eight Republican members of the committee voted against Bolden’s nomination, all 10 Democrats on the panel, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., voted for it.
The top Republican on the committee, Charles Grassley of Iowa, called Bolden an “activist” who would not interpret the law without bias.
Grassley said he objected to a 24-year-old law review article by Bolden, in which he wrote, “Judges should tip the scale on behalf of demographic groups.”
The Iowa Republican also said he was “troubled” by public comments Bolden made on the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. In that case, the Supreme Court struck down two provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“He said the justices got it wrong,” Grassley said. “He has a pattern of advocacy.”
But Blumenthal and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have been champions of the nominee and said in a joint statement Thursday that, as a lawyer for the city of New Haven, Bolden has balanced competing oncerns and has a “rock solid respect for the letter and the spirit of the law.”
“Victor Bolden has dedicated his legal career to public service, and we are pleased that today the Senate confirmed him to be a United States District Court judge,” the Connecticut senators said, “A thoughtful, skilled lawyer, Victor Bolden has fought to protect the rights of Connecticut residents and served his community.”
Because his confirmation depended on Democratic support, the clock was ticking on Bolden’s nomination.
The GOP will have control of the Judiciary Committee and of the Senate in the next Congress, the result of a GOP wave in the midterm elections earlier this month. There are only 14 working days left in this session of Congress.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., set the schedule for confirmation votes and had not scheduled a vote on Bolden until Republicans blocked consideration of a bill overhauling the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which prescribes procedures for surveillance and collection of foreign intelligence information. That freed up the Senate calendar and allowed Reid to schedule confirmation votes for Bolden and four other judicial nominees.
The two other judicial nominees considered by the Senate Thursday, one from New York and one from Wisconsin, were confirmed in unanimous votes.