After more than a year in limbo, the Senate judicial confirmation vote for Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo is officially set for early 2016.

On Dec. 9, the Senate "reached an agreement" to consider the nomination of Restrepo to serve the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on Jan. 11, 2016. According to a statement, the Senate agreed for a 30-minute debate followed by a roll call confirmation vote by 5:30 p.m.

"After months of pressure from coalition partners and elected officials, it is encouraging to hear that the Senate has scheduled a full-Senate vote for Judge Restrepo, whose qualifications for the position have never been in doubt," said John Neurohr, co-chair of the Why Courts Matter - Pennsylvania Coalition.

President Barack Obama nominated Restrepo to fill the emergency vacant seat in November 2014, and he received bipartisan support from Pennylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey. Several months later in July, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Restrepo, which advanced him to the full Senate vote.

Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Toomey, however, was criticized for allegedly delaying the confirmation process. Toomey endorsed the nominee, but waited for the customary background check on Restrepo to be completed before allowing the Judiciary Committee's vote, even though the judge had previously received a background check in 2013 during the nomination process for the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania -- which he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

"Unfortunately, the politically-motivated delays that have hampered his nomination for over a year continue, as the vote, which could have easily been scheduled for this week or next before the Senate goes on recess, has been scheduled for over a month from now. The seat Judge Restrepo would fill has been open for almost 900 days and has been declared a judicial emergency -- every day that goes by means justice is being delayed and denied for everyday Americans, and it also means judges currently on the bench are being overworked," added Neurohr.

According to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, Toomey has called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to expedite the vote.

If confirmed by the Senate, he would be the second Latino judge ever to serve on the Third Circuit and the first one from Pennsylvania.

But Restrepo is not the only Latino awaiting confirmation. Armando Bonilla is still waiting to become the first Latino to serve the U.S. Court of Federal Claims; John Michael Vazquez waits for his confirmation vote to the District of New Jersey; and Dax Eric Lopez was nominated for the Northern District of Georgia, where he would be the first Latino appointed to a lifetime judicial position in the state.


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