Senate committee unanimously supports Fargo judge for federal appeals court
FARGO — A Senate panel unanimously voted to approve the nomination of U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson to the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
The 20-0 vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Sept. 14, means Erickson's nomination now is headed to the Senate floor, and a law professor who tracks federal judicial nominations expects Erickson will be approved soon.
Erickson has served as a federal trial court judge in Fargo for 14 years and previously served almost 10 years as a county and state judge in Cass County.
"Judge Erickson is well qualified for this job," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.
Erickson has presided over almost 500 cases in his 23 years on the bench and also filled in on the 8th Circuit in 92 cases.
"The committee has received many letters of support regarding his nomination, and I'm pleased to be supporting him today," Grassley said.
Erickson's nomination by President Donald Trump is supported by U.S. Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.
"With a strong judicial record that shows his deep respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, Judge Erickson is an excellent choice for the second-highest court in the United States," Hoeven said in a statement. "We expect his nomination to come before the full Senate soon and look forward to his confirmation."
Erickson is a graduate of Jamestown College and the University of North Dakota School of Law. He was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. District Court in Fargo in 2003.
Before Thursday's vote, Erickson had appeared in July before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a two-hour hearing in which he fielded detailed questions by members about court decisions and his views on legal matters.
Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, closely tracks federal judicial nominations. He said the unanimous committee approval of Erickson's nomination demonstrates that bipartisan support is possible for mainstream nominees.
"When you get a consensus nominee who's well qualified, they go through," Tobias said, contrary to Republican claims that Democrats block all GOP nominations. Tobias agreed with Hoeven that Erickson should be approved soon by the full Senate.
If approved, Erickson will fill a vacancy created by the September 2016 retirement of Circuit Judge Kermit Bye, who was nominated in 1999 by President Bill Clinton.
President Barack Obama had nominated Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl, an assistant U.S. attorney in Fargo, for the vacancy on the appeals court. Despite winning approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republicans never brought her nomination to the floor.