Due to a reporting error, the Aug. 1 article, “Nelson, Rubio pressed on nominee,” stated that Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio had not acted to allow the nomination of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas to the federal judiciary in the Southern District of Florida, which is awaiting a Senate confirmation hearing, to advance for a Judiciary Committee vote. Sen. Nelson’s office says the senator returned his “blue slip” on July 24. Both Florida senators must sign off for the process to move forward.
MIAMI-DADE – A campaign to have Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas confirmed to the federal bench is heating up, with supporters calling on Floridians to press U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to back his nomination.
President Barack Obama tapped Thomas, who was elected to the county’s circuit court bench in 2006, six months ago for the federal judiciary in the Southern District of Florida but he is still awaiting a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing.
The nomination will not advance unless the two Florida senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, sign off on it and move the process forward.
Williams supporters say Nelson has indicated he fully supports his nomination but has not yet acted to allow it to move forward. Nelson has said he is waiting for the Senate Judiciary Committee to complete its background investigation of the nominee but that probe has already been completed and the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, has briefed Nelson.
As the home-state senator, Nelson was expected to hand in his “blue slip” after the briefing, paving the way for the nomination to proceed to the full committee for a vote but he has not yet done so.
Rubio, meanwhile, has not said why he is not yet acting on the nomination.
Williams’ nomination is being seen as part of an effort to at least start addressing the substantial imbalance in the federal judiciary. Only 95 of the 787 judges – eight percent – currently serving on the federal bench are African Americans.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D- D.C., in a statement at a recent Congressional Black Caucus press conference on African American judicial nominations, said 10 of 33 judicial nominees – nearly one-third – currently pending in the Senate are blacks.
Thomas is regarded as highly qualified for the appointment. He has been fully vetted by the American Bar Association and has consistently won an approval rating of more than 87 percent in the Dade County Bar Association Judicial Poll.
If confirmed, he will be the first openly gay member of the federal bench.
First elected in 2005, Thomas was re-elected without opposition in 2011 and has presided over
cases in the Juvenile, Criminal, and Civil Divisions of the Circuit Court, including cases of murder, medical malpractice, business litigation and eminent domain.
In his nearly nine years on the bench, Thomas has tried almost 350 jury trials to verdict.
Before being elected to the bench, Thomas worked as an assistant federal public defender for the Southern District for seven years, as well as an assistant Miami-Dade public defender
The Pennsylvania native was born and raised in housing projects, the ninth of 10 children raised by a single mother on welfare and was the first in his family to graduate from college.
His supporters are asking Floridians to call the two senators and ask that they move Thomas’ nomination forward. Nelson may be reached at 202-224-5274 and Rubio at 202-224-3041.