Gil­li­brand blocks area judge’s nom­i­na­tion

His re­pro­duc­tive rights record cited as rea­son

Albany Times Union - - FRONT PAGE - By Robert Gavin and mike Good­win

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.

Lori Van Buren / times union ar­chive

Judge thomas mar­celle at a 2017 ar­raign­ment in Co­hoes City Court. mar­celle was nom­i­nated to a fed­eral judge­ship by Pres­i­dent don­ald trump but the process was held up by Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand. mar­celle has since with­drawn his name from the process.

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