Democrats Turn on Biden’s Nominee: School Sexual Assault Controversy Ends in Withdrawal…

Democrats Turn on Biden's Nominee: School Sexual Assault Controversy Ends in Withdrawal

According to a letter obtained by AWN, embattled judicial nominee Michael Delaney has urged President Joe Biden to withdraw his nomination to a prominent appeals court.

Delaney, a former New Hampshire attorney general, faced Republican opposition and Democratic scepticism on the Senate Judiciary Committee for a case in which he represented an upscale boarding school that was sued by a student who was sexually raped on its grounds.

The resignation comes as Biden’s efforts to confirm fresh judicial nominations have faltered this year.

Biden set records for judicial confirmations in his first two years in office, relying on Democratic senators being united behind his nominees for the federal bench due to the Senate’s 50-50 split last year. Delaney is the first Biden judicial candidate to face such public opposition from members of the president’s own party.

According to a source familiar with the situation, Delaney was not requested to withdraw his nomination by the White House.

The decision comes after the Judiciary Committee failed to advance his nomination for the second week in a straight, despite full attendance and a Democratic majority thanks to the return of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The votes for Delaney, said to Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, were not present.

“President Biden put forward a deeply qualified nominee, with a long and distinguished career in public service,” said White House spokesman Andrew Bates. “The White House will consult with Senators from New Hampshire to identify a new nominee.” The President looks forward to working with Democrats and Republicans to build on his historic record of nominating and confirming men and women who are committed to the rule of law and who continue to break down barriers by reflecting our country’s diversity.”
A contentious case

The boarding school case was eventually settled under secret terms, but Delaney was chastised during the confirmation hearings for how he handled the school’s request that the victim only be permitted to advance in the lawsuit anonymously if she and her legal team met specific conditions.

Chessy Prout, the victim, decided to come out publicly after the school responded to her plea to keep her identity hidden. Her family has been vocal in its opposition to Delaney’s confirmation. Some progressive organisations, as well as survivors of sexual assault, expressed alarm about the nomination.

During a tense committee confirmation hearing in February, Delaney defended his handling of the case, arguing that his approach to the victim’s request for anonymity was consistent with applicable case law at the time, and he emphasised his work with crime victims as a former prosecutor.

Delaney also drew criticism from the left over an abortion case he handled as the deputy attorney general of New Hampshire, where his office supported a state statute requiring adolescents seeking abortions to notify their parents in court.

The Senate delegation from New Hampshire has been working hard to ensure Delaney’s confirmation. The slot on the 1st Circuit – a Boston-based appeals court that encompasses New England – had been open for almost a year before Delaney’s nomination, and the Prout family claims they communicated their concerns with Delaney to the administration long before his nomination was revealed.

“We are encouraged that survivors have been taken into account by the judiciary committee,” Chessy Prout’s father, Alexander Prout, told AWN Thursday, adding that his family’s organisation, I Have the Right To, would continue to work on passing bipartisan legislation to address minor sexual assault.

“We have just been overwhelmed with thinking that it really mattered to be persistent and to keep telling our story to the senators and their staffers,” Chessy Prout’s mother, Susan Prout, said.

Delaney informed the president in his letter that he was “honoured” to be nominated and that he was “deeply indebted” to Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan for their “continued support of my pending nomination before the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Hassan and Shaheen’s representatives did not immediately react to AWN’s request for comment.
Process slowed

Feinstein’s absence from the Senate for several weeks slowed the Democrats’ confirmation process to some extent, yet they were able to approve nominations with bipartisan backing while she was away.

Since her return restored the Democrats’ tie-breaking vote on the Judiciary Committee, they advanced numerous additional nominations, but Delaney did not receive support.

Furthermore, several nominees appear to be stuck due to a lack of support from their home state senators. Democrats are adhering to a Senate practise that requires a district court nominee to have support from senators from their home state. The so-called “blue slip” – a real sheet of blue paper – demonstrates that the nominee has the approval of those senators. Some liberal court advocacy groups have urged Democrats to abandon the practise for district court nominees, which was discontinued for circuit court vacancies by former President Donald Trump when Republicans controlled the Senate.

Biden has had some success in recent months in putting forward nominees who have the support of Republican senators from their home states.

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