In a humiliating setback for Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, former New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney’s nomination to the federal bench “disappeared” from the Judiciary Committee’s docket Thursday morning. Soon after, Delaney sent a letter to the White House withdrawing his nomination.
Delaney had been adrift for months in a U.S. Senate where Democrats have a narrow 51-49 margin on the floor and an 11-10 majority in the Judiciary Committee. Republicans were united against his nomination. Delaney would have needed the support of every Democrat on the committee to get a floor vote, and he could have afforded losing only one Democrat to make it to the bench.
Late Wednesday, the committee released a revised agenda for Thursday morning’s session with Delaney’s nomination as item one. But when Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) began the meeting, he blew past the nominations without mentioning Delaney and went straight to votes on legislation.
As the session was wrapping up, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) thanked Durbin for not bringing Delaney’s nomination up for a vote.
“I appreciate that you have removed Michael Delaney from the roster for a vote today,” Blackburn said. “And as we talk about people that are unfit for public service, Michael Delaney is one of those individuals.”
Blackburn recounted Delaney’s mishandling of the case of Chessy Prout, a 15-year-old sexual assault victim who was suing the elite St. Paul’s private school in Concord. Delaney, who represented the school, moved to strip the teen girl of her anonymity if she insisted on continuing the lawsuit.
“We have members of this committee who ask everybody that comes before us, ‘Have you committed sexual harassment? Have you committed sexual assault?’ And yet they’re willing to vote for a judge who used hardball tactics against a girl to cover up that an elite private school was guilty of pushing and participating in removing anonymity from a student at that school.”
“There is hypocrisy in some of these nominations and these votes, and I appreciate that he was removed from consideration today,” Blackburn added.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he had heard positive feedback about Delaney from New Hampshire Republicans early in the process and was open to supporting him. But when Delaney “couldn’t give a coherent answer” to questions from the committee, Graham said, “I think you proved Mr. Delaney was not ready for prime time. I am a ‘no’ on Delaney.”
Asked about the inability to hold a vote on Delaney, Durbin said, “It’s not my decision alone.” Soon after, news outlets like NBC News and CNN began reporting that Delaney was done.
Neither Shaheen nor Hassan responded to NHJournal requests for comment about the Delaney nomination. However, they released a joint statement after the nomination was withdrawn.
“We strongly supported Michael Delaney’s nomination to serve as a First Circuit judge. We know personally his strong character and commitment to justice, and he earned the support of New Hampshire and national leaders, from the former Director of the Office on Violence Against Women under President Obama to New Hampshire Supreme Court justices appointed by members of both parties. We disagree with the criticism that has been leveled against him, and we are disappointed that it got in the way of confirming a highly qualified individual.”
Delaney’s pre-existing problems with victims’ rights groups and pro-abortion advocates were exacerbated Thursday morning with the release of a letter from a coalition of progressive groups opposing his nomination.
“Mr. Delaney’s record in private practice, as Deputy Attorney General for the State of New Hampshire, and as a volunteer member of the New England Legal Foundation’s (NELF) Board of Directors demonstrates a hostility to victims’ rights, reproductive rights, employee rights, and government regulation that is unsuitable for the lifetime appointment for which he is being considered,” they wrote.
The list included the Concord-based Kent Street Coalition.
In his letter to the White House, Delaney said he was “honored” to be nominated.
“I am also deeply indebted to Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan for their continued support of my pending nomination before the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Delaney wrote.
“At this time, I believe it is appropriate for me to withdraw my name from consideration for this position to advance the important work of the federal judiciary.”