President Obama Nominates Rebecca Ross Haywood to the Third Circuit

Somewhat overshadowed by the run-up to President Obama’s nomination yesterday of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court of the United States was the President’s nomination of Rebecca Ross Haywood, the day before, to fill a vacancy on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.  The seat to be filled is one that became open when Judge Rendell took senior status.

Ms. Haywood, a Pennsylvania citizen, graduated cum laude from Princeton University and magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School.  She was on the law review at Michigan.  She then clerked for two years for a judge in the Western District of Pennsylvania, was an associate at Jones Day, and then became an Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, handling civil matters.  After holding that position for four years, Ms. Haywood went back to clerk for the same District Judge and then returned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2003.  In 2010, she was promoted to Appellate Chief of that office, a position that she has held until today.

Like Judge Garland, Ms. Haywood has excellent credentials for the post to which she has been nominated, as Matthew Stiegler’s CA3 Blog documents here.  Predictably, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), who is up for re-election this year, has already come out against her nomination, asserting that Ms. Haywood is “not suitable for such an important lifetime position.”  Her record, discussed above and detailed in part here, appears to rebut that criticism.

Unlike in the case of Judge Garland, where a moderate Democrat has been nominated to fill the seat of an extremely conservative Republican, which is one of the objections asserted by Republicans to the Garland nomination, Ms. Haywood, a Democrat who would be the first African-American woman to sit on the Third Circuit, has been tapped to take the place of another Democratic woman judge.  Senator Toomey’s objection to Ms. Haywood thus seems even less well-founded and more opportunistic than most politically-based opposition to judicial nominees.  If a President cannot nominate a well-qualified woman to replace a woman of the same party on the Third Circuit, what appointment can a President make?

All judicial nominations are subject to the distortions of the election cycle.  Few if any nominations, especially at the Court of Appeals level, are likely to go through in a presidential election year.  President Obama and Ms. Haywood presumably both know that.  Nonetheless, it is unfortunate that such a worthy nominee probably will not get a hearing, due to the opposition of one of her home state Senators.  Pennsylvania’s other Senator, Bob Casey (D-PA), issued a ringing endorsement of Ms. Haywood’s nomination, one that, regrettably, will most likely fall on deaf ears.