Don't Start Packing Yet

Local Democrats who would like to be the federal judge to replace the retiring U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips shouldn't give up their day job—it will likely be over a year from now before the new judge is named if recent trends continue.

A federal judge was approved by the Senate in an average of 64 days under President Ronald Reagan. The Congressional Research Service says it now takes 227 days for Senate Republicans to allow an appointment by President Obama.

The number of days has been climbing in recent years. Under Bill Clinton, only 16 percent of his nominees took more than 200 days. Under George W. Bush it was 25 percent taking that long. But under Obama, fully 55 percent of his nominees take over 200 days to be confirmed.

Judge Phillips will retire July 6, his 70th birthday. He has been a federal judge here since 2002, appointed by Bush. Republican senators had been holding up nominations waiting for President Mitt Romney to fill the positions. With Obama's re-election, the process may speed up, but without a Democratic senator from Tennessee, there may not be a powerful push to act.

People expressing interest so far include Assistant District Attorney TaKisha Fitzgerald, a prosecutor in the Christian/Newsom murder cases, attorneys Dawn Coppock, Pamela Reeves, and Cynthia Wyrick, and Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Kelly Thomas. Thomas is the only male in the group.