Tuesday, July 9, 2013 | 10:12 a.m.
The Senate voted Tuesday morning to confirm the nomination of Jennifer Dorsey, a partner with the Las Vegas firm of Kemp, Jones & Coulthard, as a federal district judge.
Dorsey fills the seat vacated at the end of 2012 by Judge Larry Hicks when he took senior status.
The vote to confirm Dorsey was 54-41 — and sharply divided along political lines.
Dorsey, a civil litigation attorney and native Las Vegan, was heavily championed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who in June 2012 passed Dorsey's name along to the White House as a potential judicial nominee.
“I am impressed with her dedication to the state of Nevada, her community and the legal profession,” Reid said Tuesday morning.
President Barack Obama nominated Dorsey in September 2012.
But Republicans bristled at a questionable timeline of political contributions made in the weeks just prior to Reid’s recommendation, by founding partners in Dorsey’s firm to Majority PAC, a political action committee run by former Reid aides to promote Democratic candidates championed by Reid.
William Kemp gave Majority PAC $100,000, and J. Randall Jones gave the PAC $50,000 in May 2012, according to donation records first reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Dorsey had also made a $2,500 donation to Reid’s personal campaign committee — though the $2,500 was returned prior to Reid recommending her as a federal nominee.
Reid has denied any wrongdoing, reminding that he has no official relationship with Majority PAC.
But Republicans were not satisfied.
“We have not received a full explanation of what happened,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, the leading Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday, just prior to the vote. “I’m concerned about the appearances of these contributions and how such actions might undermine the public confidence that our citizenry must have in the judicial branch.”
Nevada Republican Dean Heller had voiced similar concerns in mid-May, when Dorsey’s nomination came up for a preliminary vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. That 10-8 vote split neatly along party lines.
On Tuesday, only Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine voted against her party to confirm Dorsey.
Dorsey’s confirmation leaves only one remaining vacancy on Nevada’s seven-seat federal bench. No nomination has yet been made to fill the position.