The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted to approve and forward to the full Senate the nomination of J. Paul Oetken, a New York attorney nominated by President Barack Obama to become a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York.
If confirmed by the full Senate, Oetken, who currently practices law as an associate general counsel at for the Cablevision corporation, could become the first openly gay man to sit on the federal bench.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York), who had recommended Oetken’s nomination in January — along with Paul Engelmeyer for another opening on the court — told reporters after the committee’s action, “With today’s voice vote in the Judiciary Committee, J. Paul Oetken and Paul Engelmayer now face virtually certain confirmation on the Senate floor.”
“Both Mr. Oetken and Mr. Engelmayer have the sterling credentials and distinguished record of service to make fine judges on the Southern District Bench, and I look forward to voting to confirm them as soon as possible,” said Schumer.
Although Oetken would be the first openly gay man to occupy a judgeship on the federal bench, he would not be the first openly gay person to serve as a federal judge.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Deborah Batts, an openly lesbian, to serve as federal judge in the same jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
And last week, President Obama nominated out lesbian Alison Nathan for another open judgeship for the Southern District of New York. Nathan is special counsel to the New York State Solicitor General.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), said there was no clear determination as to when Oetken’s nomination would be scheduled for a vote by the full Senate.