WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced his first seven judicial appointees for New York on Thursday, renominating two of former President Barack Obama’s candidates who were blocked by Senate Republicans from serving on courts that cover Long Island.
Trump gave a second chance to U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary R. Brown, tapped by Obama on July 30, 2015, for a U.S. District Court seat in Islip, and Manhattan federal prosecutor Diane Gujarati, nominated by Obama for a judgeship on Sept. 13, 2016.
And while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has led the Senate Democrats in blocking and delaying most of the president’s judicial nominations, he backed Trump’s selection of these candidates for lifetime jobs as judges.
“This slate of nominations was the result of a sound, collaborative and bipartisan process that produced a balanced group of well-respected and legally qualified choices with broad support,” said Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro.
For federal judgeships in the Eastern District of New York, which covers Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, Trump also nominated former federal prosecutor Eric Komitee, who is general counsel of Viking Global Investors LP in New York City, and Rachel Kovner, a Supreme Court lawyer in the Justice Department’s solicitor general’s office.
Under Obama, Senate Republicans refused to allow a vote to confirm Brown or Gujarati, as they sought to create as many vacancies as possible in the last two years of the president’s term — even on the Supreme Court — in the hopes a Republican candidate would win the presidency.
Trump has renominated 11 of 20 Obama federal judgeship nominees who got all the way through the confirmation process except for a final vote, said Carl Tobias, a judicial nomination expert at the University of Richmond School of Law. “It’s more common than you would think,” he said.
But Tobias warned that the seven nominees for New York courts may have a difficult time getting confirmed before the November elections, since at least 75 still-pending nominations are ahead of them in the Senate. Only 35 Trump judges have been confirmed.
Brown made it all the way through the confirmation process, including a Senate hearing, but still was blocked. Gujarati did not get a Senate hearing on her nomination, which came less than two months before the 2016 presidential election.
As a magistrate judge, Brown, a Setauket resident raised in Elmont, ordered flood insurance companies to release engineering reports and documents used to deny superstorm Sandy claims, leading to an overhaul of the National Flood Insurance Program.
Gujarati is deputy chief of the criminal division in the Southern District of New York, where she has worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for 19 years. If confirmed, she would become the first Indian-American federal judge in New York.
Among the nominees for the Manhattan federal courts was former federal prosecutor Lewis J. Liman, a partner in the New York City office of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, and son of Arthur Liman, chief counsel in the Senate investigation of the Iran-Contra affair.
Most of the New York federal judges Trump would replace were appointed by Republicans — President George W. Bush and his father, President George H.W. Bush.