This vote was on confirmation of the appointment of Jeffrey J. Helmick to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
President Obama nominated Helmick for appointment to the court in May 2011, but a vote on his confirmation was delayed as part of a larger disagreement over nominations between Senate Republicans and the White House. While Senate Republicans were in the minority, they had enough members to use Senate rules to delay nominations indefinitely, and they had used this power to block many of President Obama’s nominations.
Supporters of Helmick’s nomination touted his “well qualified” rating from the American Bar Association and noted that he was supported by Ohio politicians from both parties: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), and former Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH).
“Jeff Helmick understands the needs and challenges facing the Northern District of Ohio and our legal system generally,” Sen. Brown said. “Rising costs of litigation and increasing size and scope of court dockets pose numerous challenges to any system of justice. But it is because of his experience – and respect from fellow lawyers and judges he has worked with – that he is well prepared to meet these challenges.”
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who opposed the nomination, said he was concerned about cases Helmick had taken up in his time as an Ohio attorney. Sen. Grassley noted a case in which Helmick had cited attorney-client privilege in refusing to turn over a letter, and another case in which Helmick represented a man accused – and ultimately convicted – of providing support to terrorists.
“Last year I became increasingly concerned about some of the judicial nominees being sent to the Senate by this administration,” Sen. Grassley said. “In a few individual cases, it was very troublesome. Mr. Helmick’s nomination fell into that category. When I apply the standard I mentioned and the standards that then-Senator Obama laid out or the standards expressed in the Federalist Papers, I reach the same conclusion. In my judgment, Mr. Helmick fails to meet the required standard and should not be confirmed.”
The Senate confirmed Helmick’s appointment by a vote of 62-36. Voting “yea” were 53 Democrats and 9 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 36 Republicans. As a result, Jeffrey J. Helmick was seated as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.