Stabenow, Peters to meet with judicial nominee Larsen

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters are meeting separately in Washington on Wednesday with Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who has been nominated for the federal appellate bench by President Donald Trump.

The senators’ offices confirmed the meetings Monday.

“Senator Stabenow is looking forward to speaking with Judge Larsen as part of her process for considering her nomination,” a spokeswoman said.

Republicans in recent weeks have accused Stabenow of Lansing and Peters of Bloomfield Township of delaying Larsen's nomination from advancing, but the senators say they are doing their due diligence and reviewing her record and background materials.

The delay for Larsen prompted the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative political group, to run $140,000 worth of digital ads in Michigan last month urging Stabenow and Peters to “end the political games” and support Larsen.

The Senate Judiciary Committee by custom waits on a nominee’s home state senators to submit blue slips consenting to their moving forward with hearings.

Stabenow and Peters have not yet returned blue slips on Larsen’s selection for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She was nominated by Trump on May 8.

Trump’s White House notified the senators’ offices of their intent to nominate Larsen but – unlike the previous administrations of Democrat Barack Obama and Republican George W. Bush – did not consult with the senators in advance.

Asked on her Judiciary Committee questionnaire about her selection process and any interviews that she participated in, Larsen reported no contact with Stabenow or Peters. She was interviewed by White House Counsel Don McGahn on April 27.

Carl W. Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who studies the federal judicial selection process, said it is a “constructive sign” that Larsen is meeting with Stabenow and Peters.

“The senators were always concerned that they had not been consulted, so it is a positive sign that they are meeting with the nominee,” Tobias said.

“I am not sure whether the White House did any outreach, but Larsen and her supporters might have. Of course, it would have been preferable to consult before making the nomination, so the senators could have input then.”

Neither Stabenow nor Peters has publicly expressed concerns about Larsen, who was on the list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees that Trump publicized during his campaign.

Larsen, 48, is a former University of Michigan law professor and Federalist Society member who received the American Bar Association’s top rating of “well qualified” this spring. She clerked for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Thirty-two UM law professors that included both liberals and conservatives wrote to Stabenow and Peters, praising Larsen’s legal analysis, personal integrity and collegiality, saying she would be an “outstanding” federal judge.

“I consider Joan to be an extraordinarily talented jurist, who believes in the rule of law and supports the Constitution,” said Republican Rep. Paul Mitchell of Dryden. “She would be a fine jurist in the appeals court. We need to move forward.”

The blue-slip tradition dates to 1917. Despite suggestions from some Republicans that the tradition should be retired, California Sen. Diane Feinstein, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat, stressed this month that "no circuit court nominee has been confirmed without two blue slips from home-state senators since at least 1981."

The blue slip is the only leverage that the minority party has to oppose nominees since Democrats changed the rules four years ago to end the 60-vote requirement for most nominations.

(202) 662-8736