As you know, one of the duties granted to the Senate in the Constitution is the advice and consent of judges appointed by the President to the bench. The lifetime appointment of a judge is a very serious decision; one that has a lasting impact on our democracy. Today the Senate takes up the nomination of Jeff Viken to be Federal District Judge for South Dakota. It is this nomination that I wish to speak of today.
So far this Congress, under this new president, we have confirmed two judges. One of those judges is Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the other is a Second Circuit Judge. I am proud to have a South Dakotan as the third judge to be confirmed by the Senate. However, we are nine months into this new administration and we have only confirmed two judges. I must say that I think the process of nominating and confirming judges has become increasingly over-politicized. While I believe the President should have some latitude in selecting judges, they should not be ideologues.
Jeff attended law school at my alma mater, the University of South Dakota, where our attendance overlapped. I received my law degree in 1975 and Jeff received his law degree in 1977. Jeff has served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Acting U.S. Attorney for South Dakota before going into private practice. His extraordinary reputation of skill and integrity during his years of public law practice will translate well and benefit the court. The same can be said of his tenure as the Federal Public Defender for North and South Dakota. A job he has held since 2003. Regarding his nomination, Jeff received a well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association. It is clear that he has an accomplished résumé and has many years of public service.
It is a great honor that President Obama has placed on Jeff. We are very fortunate to have a great member of the South Dakota legal community nominated to this post. Jeff has many years of public service and we look forward to his future work for the people of South Dakota. Most importantly, his nomination to the bench is a victory for justice and the rule of law for not only South Dakota, but for our nation.
I have known Jeff for a long time. I find him to be a nominee of good moral character and standing in the community. Mr. President, it is with great satisfaction that I will cast my vote today for the confirmation of Jeff Viken to be the next U.S. Federal District Judge for South Dakota. I urge my colleagues to support this very qualified nominee.