Charles Schumer | Daniel Alter | New York | News

Schumer Nominates First Openly Gay Man to Federal Bench

New York Senator Chuck Schumer has nominated National Director of the Civil Rights Division of the Anti-Defamation League, attorney Daniel Alter, to serve as a judge in the Southern District federal court:

Alter "Mr. Alter is a history-making pick, as he is the first openly gay male nominated for the federal court in American history. Schumer laid out several reasons Alter would make an excellent fit for the job. Schumer said that Alter’s stellar legal background, close ties to New York, even-handedness, temperament and demonstrated leadership skills would make him an excellent choice for the Southern District Court. Schumer also said that he is highly capable and very qualified for the position...Alter is not only a legal expert in terrorism and security; he is a strong advocate for civil rights. As the National Director of the Civil Rights Division of the Anti-Defamation League, Daniel led the ADL’s charge against hate crimes, both at home and abroad."

Said Schumer: “Daniel Alter couldn’t be a more perfect choice. He is a brilliant attorney who possesses the knowledge, balanced views and temperament required of a federal judge. His outstanding leadership skills, his commitment to justice, and his extensive experience make him an exceptional choice for a position on the federal bench. I’m proud to nominate Daniel Alter. Period. But I am equally proud to nominate him because he is a history-maker who will be the first openly gay male judge in American history.”

DC Agenda reports: "His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation. For judicial nominations, presidents traditionally abide by the recommendations made by the senior senator from the state where there’s a vacancy, which in the case of New York is Schumer.

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  1. A gay Jew in the Southern District federal court? Wow. Talk about chutzpah! If this doesn't make redneck teabaggers heads explode, nothing will.

    Posted by: Rick | Feb 9, 2010 9:32:59 AM

  2. This is slightly incorrect. Schumer did not nominate anyone. The President is the one who nominates, and no nomination has been made. Schumer has *recommended* the President nominate Alter. Usually such recommendations are followed, but there's a big difference.

    There is currently an open (Black) lesbian on the same court, who was nominated in 1994.

    Posted by: Correction | Feb 9, 2010 10:48:47 AM

  3. This is essentially saying that Vaughn Walker wasn't out when he was nominated to the federal bench under Bush. He's never made a secret of his orientation -- is it the fact that he never had a major coming out party complete with press releases and a lavender ball gown that keeps him from being an openly gay nominee as a federal judge? I'm confused.

    Posted by: Pete | Feb 9, 2010 11:31:44 AM

  4. Sen. Schumer is incorrect in asserting that Alter would be the first openly-gay male appointed to the federal bench. That distinction goes to Joseph H. Gale, who was nominated by President Clinton to serve on the U.S. Tax Court and confirmed by the Senate in 1995. Alter may well be the first openly-gay male nominated to a federal district court, but not the first openly-gay male federal judge.

    Posted by: Will | Feb 9, 2010 11:48:48 AM

  5. Alter will not be the first gay federal judge, ask Judge Walker.

    Posted by: stolidog | Feb 9, 2010 2:23:53 PM

  6. I think it's the first gay man in the Southern District of New York (read: Manhattan's federal trial court), not all federal courts. The S.D.N.Y. is prestigious because of the large number of high-profile cases that come out of there.

    Posted by: Adam | Feb 9, 2010 3:49:30 PM

  7. As far as the federal courts are concerned, aside from the U.S. Supreme Court itself, there's only three we need to really worry about as citizens:

    - The Second Circuit in New York usually gets all the high profile financial cases because that's where Wall Street is based.

    - The Ninth Circuit in San Francisco usually gets all the high profile civil rights cases because it is liberal.

    - And the DC Circuit - the most conservative federal appeals court - always get the national security and foreign policy racket because it generally does whatever the federal government tells it to do.

    Posted by: John | Feb 9, 2010 4:03:46 PM

  8. John, wrong on many levels. Arguably the 11th and 5th are just as conservative as the DC Circuit. The 4th Circuit gets many national security cases.
    The fact that the Ninth Circuit is liberal would have little to do with it getting civil rights cases. The Court of Appeals gets cases from the courts in that circuit. Of the major Supreme Court civil rights cases of the past several years, few have actually come from the Ninth Circuit. The Michigan affirmative action cases (Grutter and Gratz) were from the 6th Circuit, the firefighters case (Ricci) was from the 2nd Circuit, the Equal Pay Act case (Ledbetter) was from the 11th Circuit, and even the most recent public school integration case, was consolidated two cases- 6th Circuit and 9th Circuit (Parents Involved in Community Schools).

    Each citizen should be most concerned with their own Court of Appeals, since that sets the law for where they live.

    Re: Tax Court- that's not an Article III court with life tenure, and usually not considered to be of the same gravitas. There's an open lesbian judge, Emily Hewitt, on the Court of Federal Claims as well, which is also an Article I court. Obama named her chief judge in 2009, but Article I courts are a totally different beast.

    Posted by: Correction | Feb 10, 2010 12:41:14 AM

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