Judge John Gerrard was selected, and now serves with distinction, as a federal district judge. He replaced me. John was a nominal Democrat before his appointment. I was a nominal Republican before my appointment. When I announced a year in advance that I would take senior status, the senior US Senator was Ben Nelson, a Democrat. The junior US Senator was Mike Johanns, a Republican. Johanns fully cooperated with Nelson and President Obama and enthusiastically supported the appointment of Judge Gerrard. Gerrard was, by every measure, extraordinarily well qualified to serve as a federal district judge. The active support of Republican Senator Mike Johanns was an act of statesmanship and common sense and a continued commitment to the Nebraska tradition of putting highly qualified individuals on the federal trial bench without regard to raw partisanship.
Joe Bataillon, my wonderful colleague, will take senior status on or about October 1, 2014. As I wrote shortly after Joe announced his intention to take senior status, I desperately hope that Joe’s replacement will not be a bozo. If the White House cares about nominating a high qualified individual like John Gerrard to fill Joe Bataillon’s seat, then I hope the powers that be listen to Senator Johanns and Senator Fischer and not play politics with this critical nomination to our little court.
After a long and careful process, the two Republican US Senators have suggested to the President that he nominate a nominal Republican, Bob Rossiter. Both Democrats and Republicans were given a fair shot at convincing the Senators that they were the best person for the job no matter their past political affiliations. Rossiter came out on top, and for a good reason.
Rossiter is 58 years old. He graduated from the Creighton Law School with honors. He was the Executive Editor of the law review. He served as a law clerk to a federal trial judge (Judge Beam, who is now a senior Circuit judge). He is the only lawyer in Nebraska who is both a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers (State chair 2012-2014) and the American College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, He has tons of federal trial experience. He is highly regarded by his peers. He was elected and served as the Chair of the Nebraska State Bar Association House of Delegates. Recognizing his prior service to the NSBA, Bob has now been selected as President-Elect Designate of the Association. Bob’s commitment to his community and church include service as a member of the Board of Directors of Girls Incorporated of Omaha, service as a member of the Board of Directors of Catholic Charities of Omaha, and service as Parish Council President of the St. Wenceslaus Parish.
On a personal note, I have known Bob for about a quarter of a century. I know of no finer or fairer person. Importantly, he shares my taste in fine food. Once a year or so, we have breakfast at the Hi-Way Diner in Lincoln. If you like grease, as Bob and I do, there is no finer dining establishment. I should not forget to add that by clicking here you can access the menu. I particularly recommend the #7 Biscuits & Sausage Gravy (Full Order $4.89/Half Order $3.29). Don’t skimp. Get the full order. You can’t go wrong either with the #9, Chicken Fried Steak with 2 Eggs & Magic Toast for $8.99. Be sure to add Hash Browns for $1.79.
Finally, and more seriously, I end with the thoughts of Carl Tobias the Williams Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law who follows judicial nominations and the process related thereto more closely than virtually anyone else. Regarding the federal trial courts, Professor Tobias recently observed:
The judicial vacancy crisis must end. The federal bench has experienced nearly a ten percent vacancy rate over an unprecedented four and a half-year period. The substantial number and protracted character of those openings have imposed numerous detrimental effects. These phenomena have delayed the scheduling of jury trials in many civil cases and even propelled termination of some litigation because the Speedy Trial Act requires that criminal matters have precedence.
Professor Tobias concluded:
In sum, the 80 district court vacancies nationwide . . . undermine federal courts’ efforts to promptly, inexpensively, and equitably decide cases. Accordingly, President Obama must swiftly nominate, and the Senate expeditiously process, highly qualified, uncontroversial candidates. To facilitate this process, the White House should consult home state senators across the country and speedily nominate exceptional people for all vacancies.
President Obama has been presented with a highly qualified, uncontroversial candidate by Nebraska’s US Senators. Just like Senator Johanns did when he enthusiastically supported Judge Gerrard, President Obama should set aside politics and do the right thing. That is, nominate the exceptionally well qualified Bob Rossiter to become the next United States District Judge for the District of Nebraska.