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The Rochester federal court could be one step closer to installing a new judge.
In a prelude to the committee’s consideration of her nomination, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, on Wednesday introduced U.S. District Judge candidate Elizabeth Wolford to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Recommended by Schumer and named as President Barack Obama’s choice to fill an opening on the Rochester federal bench, Wolford, a litigator with the Wolford Law Firm LLP, would be the first female federal judge to serve in the Western District of New York.
She would also fill a long-empty slot in the court’s Rochester division. Currently staffed by three senior judges and one only recently named active judge, the division has a long and longstanding backlog of civil cases.
Federal judges can go on senior status—a classification that lets them retire with a generous pension but continue to work or not at their own discretion and chosen pace—at 65.
District Judge Charles Siragusa, who took senior status last year, continues to maintain a full case load as does District Judge David Larimer, who went on senior status several years ago. District Judge Michael Telesca, who is in his 80s, hears Social Security and habeas corpus cases.
District Judge Frank Geraci, the most recent appointee to take a seat on the Rochester federal bench, was handed a 300-case load consisting of transfers of in-progress cases from the other judge’s dockets when he took the seat last January.
The local federal court desperately needs a new judge, Western District of New York Chief Judge William Skretney told the Rochester Business Journal in April. The district has the nation's sixth-highest caseload and seventh-highest number of cases per judge and would fall even further behind if any of the Rochester senior judges decided to fully retire.
Neither approval of Wolford’s appointment by the Senate committee nor confirmation by the full Senate is not a given.
The White House withdrew its nomination of former Monroe County District Attorney Michael Green for a federal judgeship in 2011 after Green’s nomination languished for months with little sign that Senators would ever give it a hearing.
Green, a Democrat, blamed the Senate’s stall on opposition stemming from Rochester-area Republicans’ displeasure with his decision to pursue corruption prosecutions of individuals linked to the administration of Republican Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks.
Monroe County GOP leader William Reilich denied any involvement by local Republicans. The Obama administration and not the GOP had canceled Green’s nomination, he protested.
“For a long time, one of my goals has been to bring a woman to the federal bench in Western New York, and (Wolford) would not only do that, she will also bring her considerable legal experience and first-rate legal mind to the bench; she is simply one of the finest judicial candidates I have ever met,” Schumer told Judiciary Committee members on Wednesday.
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