Oetken was recommended to Barack Obama by Schumer, and he will be the first the openly gay man to serve on the federal bench.
“As the first openly gay man to be confirmed as a federal judge, Paul Oetken is living proof that it really does get better,” Schumer said. “His confirmation moves us one step closer toward equality. But long after today, what the history books will remember about Paul are his achievements as a fair and brilliant judge, his unwavering dedication to public service and the Constitution of the United States, and his commitment to the rule of law.”
Oetken will serve on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Lawmakers and the president typically defer to the local senator in the confirmation of judges. Oetken was approved 80-13.
Full Schumer remarks from the floor below:
Mr./Madam President: It is my distinct honor to rise in support of Paul Oetken’s confirmation to the bench of the Southern District of New York. We have a very deep pool of legal talent in New York, but Paul’s nomination is one that everyone is talking about.
Paul is brilliant, well-rounded, and unwavering in his dedication to public service and his commitment to the rule of law. His confirmation will only improve the workings of one of the best and busiest courts in the country.
I look for three qualities in judicial candidates – excellence, moderation, and diversity.
Paul’s excellence is provable on paper. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Yale Law School, and has worked in the highest echelons of two of the three branches of government – including for the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice and for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. He has also climbed the ranks of private legal practice – serving most recently as the head of litigation for a large media company, Cablevision.
I consider a broad range of experiences to be an important training ground for teaching judicial candidates the second quality that I look for — moderation. I do not like judges who tend too far to the right, but I do not like judges who come from a perspective that is too far left, either. Paul Oetken fits the bill of a mainstream, moderate judge. His moderation, and modesty, were evident during his confirmation hearing and are clear to all who know him.
When a candidate has these two qualities, diversity is a bonus.
But in this case, at this moment, Paul is not just an excellent candidate. As the first openly gay man to be confirmed as a federal judge and to serve on the federal bench, he will be a symbol of how much we have achieved as a country in just the last few decades.
And importantly, he will give hope to many talented young lawyers who, until now, thought their paths might be limited because of their sexual orientation. When Paul becomes Judge Oetken, he will be living proof to all those young lawyers that it really does get better.
Paul Oetken’s modest but brave act of going through the confirmation process makes this otherwise quiet moment historic. But long after today, what the history books will note about Paul are his achievements as a fair and brilliant judge.
Mr./Madam President, in a few moments our country will take one step closer towards equality and away from bigotry and prejudice. I am very proud to play a supporting role in it, and I look forward to Paul Oetken’s service on the bench in the Southern District of New York.
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