Judge William Thomas Not Renominated For Federal Bench

, Daily Business Review

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Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas

Attorneys and lawmakers expressed outrage and disappointment Wednesday that the White House withdrew the federal judicial nomination of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas, who is black and openly gay.

The nomination was blocked by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican. Thomas, who was nominated in November 2012, was the only one of 54 pending judicial candidates not renominated by the Obama administration this week. There are currently 89 vacancies on the federal district and appellate courts. Black judges currently make up 8.3 percent of the federal judiciary.

Thomas was on the bench Wednesday and did not return a call for comment by deadline.

Rubio initially supported Thomas after interviewing him for an open federal bench position in the Southern District of Florida but reversed himself last summer.

"The message that it sends is chilling and shocking, not only to the gay community but to the black community, that Senator Rubio and the Tea Party have such power that they would be able to block a qualified black gay judge with one voice," said attorney C. Chad Cronon, president of the Central Florida Gay and Lesbian Association in Orlando.

Miami attorney Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, a member of Duane Morris' national diversity and inclusion committee, said, "This is another example of the fact we are permitting extreme and discriminatory views to color how we select judges." She said she was discouraged and troubled that the Obama administration is "caving on an issue of such importance, which is the independence of the judiciary and the right of people to have their sexual orientation protected."

Rubio cited two criminal cases handled by Thomas even though prosecutors in both cases urged him to support Thomas.

Rubio stalled Thomas' nomination by refusing to submit a blue slip to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would have allowed a vote. Rubio was not persuaded by a letter-writing and petition campaign on behalf of Thomas organized by South Florida attorneys.

'Unfortunate'

Coral Gables criminal defense attorney David Tucker collected 2,148 signatures on an electronic petition supporting Thomas.

"We all get to ruminate on the politicization of the federal judicial nominating process," he said. "This is a tragedy, and I'm sad that this not only happened but we allowed it to happen. Whatever happened to doing the right thing?"

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