Joan Larsen heads to Washington, D.C., today to meet with Michigan’s two Democratic senators. Hopefully, the face-to-face sessions will allay any concerns about Larsen’s readiness and competency to fill a seat on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Michigan Supreme Court justice was nominated to the appellate court by President Donald Trump in May.
The confirmation process has been held up while Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters consider her qualifications.
The two senators say they weren’t consulted by the Trump administration before Larsen was picked, although the White House says its attempts to work with Democratic senators on judicial nominees have been rebuffed.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader, has urged Democrats to move slowly, if at all, on judicial nominees, particularly those such as Larsen who were on Trump’s original list of possible Supreme Court picks.
Neither she nor fellow Sixth Circuit nominee David Stras of Minnesota, who was also on Trump’s list, have been approved for a hearing. Like Michigan, Minnesota has two Democratic senators.
Under Senate tradition, a home state senator can delay or block a nominee by not returning a so-called blue slip — a tacit acknowledgment that the prospect is qualified for consideration by the full Senate.
It’s a tool designed to prevent unpopular or unqualified judges from reaching the bench.
Neither descriptive applies to Larsen.
Let’s restate her qualifications. Larsen, 48, was appointed to the court in 2015 by Gov. Rick Snyder. She stood for election for the seat last fall, and won a majority of the votes in every Michigan county.
Before coming to the state court, she was a professor at the University of Michigan. Her law school colleagues from the left and right have expressed overwhelming support for her nomination.
A graduate of Northwestern Law School, she clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and was in the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration.
The America Bar Association reviewed her record and deemed her well-qualified, its highest rating.
Aside from the resume, Larsen is a thoughtful and disciplined jurist who eschews rigid ideology and shows a healthy respect for the will of the Legislature.
It would be hard to imagine Trump could find a better appeals court nominee from Michigan. And if Peters and Stabenow block her appointment, the president is likely to look to a more friendly state in the circuit, say Kentucky, where both senators are Republican, to fill the opening.
Or, if Democrats persist in blocking Trump’s judicial nominees, the blue-slip courtesy could be scrapped. Since Democrats blew up the 60-vote rule for court selections, Larsen would then need only 50 Republican votes to take the seat.
The reasons to keep Larsen off the appeals court are all political. And that doesn’t serve Michigan well.
Stabenow and Peters will have a better chance to get to get to know Justice Larsen today.
We trust they will find her a perfectly suitable pick for the appeals court, and one they should be proud to support.