The Republican-led Senate majority confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s successor at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, just under two months after announcing his nomination and during a lame-duck session.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is undoubtedly pleased that he was able to fill the vacant seat with Thomas L. Kirsch II, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana. The vote in the Senate was 51-44.
Confirmed, 51-44: Executive Calendar #931 Thomas L. Kirsch II to be United States Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit.
— Senate Cloakroom (@SenateCloakroom) December 15, 2020
As we move quickly towards a Joe Biden–Kamala Harris administration, McConnell and his Republican majority will likely try and fill as many other vacancies as possible.
An uncertain situation for the Georgia runoff elections complicates things for McConnell as well. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) faces off with Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock, and Sen. David Perdue (R) is up against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. If Republicans lose these elections, VP-elect Harris emerges as a potential tiebreaker. If Republicans maintain the majority, they can block Biden’s nominees.
In the meanwhile, Republicans got themselves a new circuit judge on Tuesday.
Kirsch served for 7 years, from 2001 to 2008, as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Indiana. He prosecuted white-collar crimes, many of which were related to public corruption (including wire, mail, bank, tax, and healthcare fraud, racketeering, and perjury) as well as gang and drug crimes.
In 2020, Kirsch’s office handled the prosecution of Joe Stahura—mayor of Whiting for over 35 years, for spending $255,000 in campaign money on personal expenses, and his wife’s gambling habit.
Kirsch is a 1996 graduate of Indiana University and 1999 graduate of Harvard Law School.
In addition to serving as a federal prosecutor, Kirsch was a partner at the law firm Winston & Strawn, where he handled corporate investigations and complex litigation.
The seat Kirsch will fill has already been the scene of another Merrick Garland-esque situation; President Barack Obama nominated Myra Selby for the seat in January of 2016. Selby had served, since 1995, on the Indiana Supreme Court; there, she served as both the first African-American and first woman on the highest state court in Indiana. Had Selby had been confirmed to the Seventh Circuit, she would have been the first African-American and the first woman from Indiana on that circuit court as well. Senate Republicans, however, refused to hold a confirmation hearing for Selby.
After a vote on Selby’s nomination was denied, the seat eventually went to Amy Coney Barrett. Now the seat is going to Barrett’s GOP-approved successor.
Elura Nanos contributed to this report.
[Image via DOJ]
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