Yesterday, the Senate voted 54-43 to confirm Paul Matey to a seat on the Third Circuit. The vote largely followed party lines, with Senator Joe Manchin (D- WV) the only Democrat to vote in favor of the nomination. The Senate deviated (and not for the first time under the current Administration) from what had been its normal practice of proceeding only with the consent of the nominee’s home state Senators. Both New Jersey Senators Menendez and Booker opposed the nomination.
A graduate of the University of Scranton and the Seton Hall School of Law, Matey has been a partner at Lowenstein Sandler since September 2018. Before that, he was Senior Counsel and Deputy Chief Counsel to Governor Christie, and Senior Vice President and General Counsel at University Hospital in Newark.
Matey’s seat is the one that Judge Fuentes, who was appointed by President Clinton in 1999, had occupied before Judge Fuentes took senior status in 2016. With this appointment, along with those of Judges Bibas and Porter, the Third Circuit’s political makeup has shifted from a majority of Democratic appointees to a majority of Republican appointees. A number of reports have noted that fact, but its significance is not clear. At his CA3 Blog, Matthew Stiegler has suggested that this switch is of little import, given a number of considerations. And the recent statement of Chief Justice Roberts that there are “no Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges” embodies the belief that judges do not function as political animals. The path of the Third Circuit going forward remains, of course, to be seen.