One of President Joe Biden’s nominees for a U.S. district court seat has withdrawn her nomination, saying it was a personal choice to step back.
Colleen Holland, who Biden nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, told HuffPost on Tuesday that she’s bowing out.
“I have asked the President not to resubmit my nomination to the Senate,” Holland said in a statement. “This was a personal decision made after careful consideration.”
The news was first reported earlier Tuesday by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Later Tuesday, HuffPost learned that Charnelle Bjelkengren, another one of Biden’s judicial nominees, has asked that her nomination be withdrawn.
Bjelkengren, who was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, had been facing intense criticism from Republicans after flubbing some basic questions about the Constitution in her confirmation hearing.
“Judge Bjelkengren asked not to be re-nominated, and Senator Murray will be working closely with the Biden Administration on the nomination process to quickly confirm a qualified judge for the Eastern District of Washington,” said Amir Avin, a spokesperson for Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who had recommended Bjelkengren to the White House for the court seat.
Holland’s decision to withdraw her nomination is a bit more unexpected. Biden nominated her in August, after she was recommended to the White House by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“Ms. Holland is an accomplished lawyer, with profound integrity and legal intellect, the ability to command a courtroom, and a passion for the preservation of the rule of law that would bring dignity and honor to her post,” Schumer said at the time.
However, Holland was never scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing, and Republicans there would have almost certainly criticized her relative youth and lack of judicial experience. Holland, 39, is a career law clerk, currently serving as senior counsel to the chief judge on the federal court to which she was nominated. She was previously a litigation associate at several law firms based in Rochester, New York.
Neither of those details is disqualifying for being a federal judge, but they would be easy targets for GOP senators eager to sink a Democrat-backed judicial nominee. The Senate judiciary committee, in particular, has become a platform for Republicans to attack Biden’s nominees with performative outrage ― and then selectively clip video segments from the hearings to share on social media to make it look like they are principled, tough-guy lawmakers.
Schumer said in a Tuesday statement to HuffPost that he will work with the White House to quickly nominate someone new to this court seat.
“We respect Ms. Holland’s decision and thank her for her continued public service to the Western District as an accomplished lawyer, of profound integrity and legal intellect,” Schumer said. “We will move expeditiously with the administration to nominate a person for this important judicial position.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor and judicial nominations expert, said it was “unfortunate” that Holland withdrew her nomination.
“She seemed like a well-qualified, experienced nominee who had worked closely with [Western District of New York] Chief Judge Elizabeth Wolford for a number of years and had much experience before that at well-respected law firms,” said Tobias, citing Holland’s work with Nixon Peabody LLP in particular.
“However, the hyper-partisan nature of the confirmation process can make excellent candidates reluctant to be involved,” he said.
Tobias gave the example of Senate Republicans, in late December, returning 19 of Biden’s “strong” judicial nominees to the White House “without any explanation.”
The GOP’s move, an entirely partisan effort to delay action on any of Biden’s court picks, meant that the White House had to renominate those people all over again at the start of 2024 and now has to quickly usher them through the Senate process again.
Five of those 19 nominees weren’t even renominated, Holland being one of them and Bjelkengren being another. The other three are in limbo. The White House could renominate them later, or not.
Now that it’s a presidential election year, the clock is ticking on Senate Democrats for confirming Biden’s judges at all. Senators will be increasingly pivoting to their reelection campaigns or helping Biden with his, meaning less time in the Senate and less time to confirm judges before the country votes to elect the next president.
Schumer and fellow New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand are going to have to move “expeditiously” to put forward new candidates to replace Holland if they want any chance at filling this court seat, Tobias said.