Albany Times Union
Gillibrand blocks area judge’s nomination
His reproductive rights record cited as reason
Cohoes City Court Judge Thomas Marcelle quietly withdrew his name from consideration to be the area’s next federal judge after his nomination was blocked by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand over his opposition to abortion.
And in another change at the top of the region’s federal justice apparatus, U.S. Attorney Grant Jaquith plans to depart his current post to take a different judicial role.
President Donald J. Trump nominated Marcelle for U.S. District Court in October, but the nomination was never acted on by the U.S. Senate,
which confirms the nominations of federal judges. The Senate, currently controlled by Republicans, has swiftly acted on a number of Trump’s judicial nominees, but took no action on Marcelle.
Marcelle, a Slingerlands resident, blamed the demise of his candidacy on Gillibrand, a Democrat who refused to file what’s known as a “blue slip,” which signals a senator’s assent to allow U.S. District Court nominee to proceed.
“Sen. Gillibrand has refused to issue a blue slip, so the nomination process has reached a standstill,” Marcelle said.
On Thursday — a day after Gillibrand ended her presidential campaign — a spokesperson for the senator confirmed that she withheld a blue slip because of “concerns with (Marcelle’s) record on reproductive rights.”
Marcelle, 57, is pro-life. In 2012, when Albany County Executive Daniel Mccoy nominated him to be county attorney, it was opposed by — among others — the Empire State Pride Agenda, the state’s largest gay rights organization. The group asked Mccoy to withdraw the nomination because of Marcelle’s work as a counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based group now called the Alliance Defending Freedom, which opposes abortion and gay rights.
Marcelle said at the time he would “absolutely” uphold the state’s same-sex marriage law and that he considered people’s personal lives neither his business nor the government’s. He ended up serving as county attorney until 2016, when Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse picked Marcelle for his city judgeship. In an unrelated matter, Morse was forced out of office earlier this month after he pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge for stealing campaign funds.
An official familiar with the matter said Marcelle withdrew in a June letter to the White House. Senators were notified about his decision in early July.
Marcelle, an enrolled Conservative Party member, was tapped to fill the vacancy created by the change in the role of U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe, who reached the age of 70 and has ascended to “senior status,” meaning he can collect his pension while handling a reduced workload.
From 2002 to 2011, Marcelle served as counsel for the County Legislature’s Republican minority. In 2008, President George W. Bush nominated Marcelle for the federal bench. But the Senate, then controlled by Democrats, did not confirm him.
Also Wednesday, Trump announced his intention to nominate Jaquith, the region’s current U.S. Attorney, to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
Jaquith will have to be confirmed by the Senate after Trump formally nominates him to the 15-year appointment.
Though it handles veterans’ matters, the court is part of the U.S. judiciary. It’s based in Washington, D.C., but it can meet anywhere in the country. It is comprised of seven judges.
Jaquith has served as the region’s U.S. Attorney since Richard Hartunian, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, left office in the early months of the Trump administration when the new president purged Obama’s appointees.
In 2018, then-attorney General Jeff Sessions officially appointed Jaquith as interim U.S. Attorney for the Northern District.
A former Army colonel, Jaquith currently serves as the head of the U.S. Attorney’s 32-county Northern District, which comprises a large portion of eastern upstate New York including the Capital Region and the Adirondacks.
It stretches west to the Syracuse area and south to the Binghamton area.
Jaquith, a member of the U.S. Attorney’s office since 1989, had served since 2010 as first assistant to Hartunian.
From 1982 to 2011, Jaquith also served in the Army’s corps of judge advocate general. In the Army, he also worked as a staff judge advocate, a circuit judge and chief of military law.
Jaquith was one of several lawyers the Trump administration on Thursday announced it intended to nominate to federal judiciary posts.