Tuesday, June 10, 2014 | 2:16 p.m.
WASHINGTON — For the first time in several years, Nevada’s federal bench doesn’t have an empty seat.
The U.S. Senate today confirmed federal Public Defender Richard Boulware to sit on the U.S. District Court for Nevada.
“Richard Boulware is the epitome of what a federal judge should be,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement.
The Las Vegas resident’s confirmation brings to a close years of unfilled judgeships in Nevada, a result of partisan bickering in the Senate that stalled nominations.
But things are moving faster now for nominees across the nation after a rule change Reid engineered this past fall to make it easier for federal nominations to clear the Senate.
Most federal judicial nominees and executive branch appointments can now pass with a simple majority vote in the Senate, instead of a 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority that was previously the norm.
Boulware passed the Senate with a vote 58-35.
“That is a really important thing for the state of Nevada, because now we don’t have vacancies and now our court can function at its best,” said Annette Magnus, the director of the progressive nonprofit ProgressNow Nevada, which is part of the progressive judicial advocacy group Nevada for Judicial Progress.
Boulware, a former New York trial attorney and Harvard and Columbia graduate, received bipartisan support from Reid and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. That isn’t always the case for Nevada federal nominees.
Heller signed off on Reid’s pick for the position, calling Boulware “extremely impressive.”
“In Nevada, it is critical for us to work together to find qualified candidates who will uphold America’s principles of impartiality under law,” Heller said on the Senate floor today.
Boulware is the first black man to sit on Nevada’s federal bench. Circuit Court Judge Johnnie Rawlinson was the first black woman on the bench.
Magnus said Boulware’s varied experience will ensure a more diverse court. “All different backgrounds and ethnicities make a real difference in the types of decisions that are handed down,” Magnus said.