President Donald Trump named a new nominee Wednesday for a spot on the federal bench in North Carolina that has remained vacant for more than 13 years and has been one of the most contentious in Senate judicial confirmation fights.
Richard E. Myers II, a Jamaica native and a professor at the University of North Carolina law school who focuses on criminal law, will be the next pick for the Eastern District of North Carolina, the White House announced. The seat is the only vacancy in that district, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
The spot has been open through the past three administrations because of the Tar Heel State’s contentious politics and the way senators have used traditions to block nominees. And advocacy groups have highlighted the racial overtones of the confirmation fight over the seat for the Eastern District, which they say is nearly 30 percent black but has never had a black federal judge.
The previous nominee, Thomas Farr, was teed up for a confirmation vote on the floor in November but yanked amid concerns about his past work on voting rights. The Raleigh-based lawyer, who is white, defended in court North Carolina’s voting laws that judges later struck down as discriminatory for targeting minorities “with almost surgical precision.”
Farr’s nomination was all but sunk last year when Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate’s sole black Republican, announced his opposition to Farr. The nomination was returned to the White House in January because the Senate never voted on it.
Eight months later, Trump has picked Myers instead of renominating Farr. Myers previously prosecuted a wide variety of crimes as an assistant U.S. attorney in North Carolina and California. He has been on the UNC faculty since 2004.
President Barack Obama’s nominees for the seat, both of whom would have been the first black federal judge in the district, were blocked by home-state Republicans.
Senate Democrats twice blocked President George W. Bush’s nominee for the same vacancy on the bench — the same Thomas Farr that was set to get a floor vote a dozen years later. It became vacant when a judge took senior status on Dec. 31, 2005.
Trump also announced Wednesday that he would nominate a White House adviser to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which is headquartered in New York.
Steven Menashi, currently a special assistant to Trump and senior associate counsel to the president, was previously a law professor at George Mason University.
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