Senator Hoeven Must Fulfill Constitutional Duty

The unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia brought the judicial nomination process to the spotlight over the weekend. It is critically important to ensure the President and Senate fulfill their constitutional duties with the President nominating and the Senate confirming a Supreme Court Justice. The Supreme Court is vitally important to all of our well-being, and so are our other federal courts. Indeed, we have a judicial vacancy here at home that needs to be taken seriously and quickly filled by our Senators. In April of 2015, Federal Judge Kermit Bye decided to take senior status, leaving vacant his seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. On January 28, 2016, the White House finally announced that President Obama had nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl to fill that vacancy. If confirmed, she would be the first female judge to represent our state in the federal district or appellate courts. Moving Puhl’s nomination to a confirmation hearing and vote quickly will ensure that North Dakota is able to keep an active seat on the appeals court.
A native of North Dakota, Puhl’s extensive experience in the U.S. Attorney’s office, including her commendable work protecting victims of human trafficking and child abuse, would be an asset to the justice system. She has already received bipartisan praise from her colleagues and public leaders, including Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, who hired Puhl almost 15 years ago. In light of her career serving the public and the broad support she’s received, I was disappointed to see that Senator Hoeven is “still reviewing” Puhl’s nomination (Article, InForum, Feb 7).
The Eighth Circuit vacancy is one of 86 current and future judicial vacancies, a historic number not seen since the Eisenhower administration. Many vacancies have lingered for years due to partisan wrangling, and North Dakotans and Americans are paying the price for obstruction. There are significant delays in access to justice because of these vacancies. It is time for Senator Hoeven to stand up to leaders in his party and advocate for the good of our state.
The solution is simple: Senators must fulfill their constitutional duty to provide “advice and consent” on these nominees and provide prompt consideration of those nominated. Senator Hoeven has a responsibility to our justice system to do right by the people of North Dakota. I encourage him to stop playing partisan games and join Senator Heitkamp on behalf of our state in advocating for a swift confirmation of Jennifer Puhl.
Rep. Kylie Oversen
Chairwoman, North Dakota Democratic-NPL
Third Year Law Student, UND School of Law


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