Judge Approved Over Opposition by GOP, Victims’ Advocates

Posted June 10, 2010 at 11:43am

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination of Judge Robert Chatigny to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday on a largely party-line vote despite stiff GOP opposition over his handling of child pornography and rape cases as a district judge.

With Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) abstaining on the vote, the committee’s other 11 Democrats approved the nomination Thursday morning, while the committee’s entire seven-member contingent of Republicans voted “no.”

Although Republicans have opposed a number of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees over the last 18 months — and in several cases have used anonymous holds to block floor consideration of some nominees — none has prompted a campaign by Republicans to actually defeat them.

But that could change with Chatigny. In a series of cases involving defendants found guilty of child pornography, rape and sexual assault cases, Chatigny used the process of downward departure to reduce their sentences.

Chatigny also played a central role in the “roadside strangler” case. In that case, Chatigny allegedly threatened to pull the law license of the attorney for a convicted killer — who has been on death row for 15 years — unless he continued his efforts to have the sentence overturned.

Chatigny’s nomination has been hotly contested by victims’ rights advocates and the families of several high-profile victims, including the family of Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped in 2002.

According to GOP aides, Chatigny has not yet moved to the conference’s front burner. But with the nomination now moving to the floor, senior aides said that is expected to change and that a coordinated opposition effort could be in the works.