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Republicans Ask for Second Hearing for New York Trial Court Pick

May 19, 2022, 8:00 PM

Senate Judiciary Republicans are making an unusual request for a rehearing on a President Joe Biden judicial nominee for a New York district court, saying she provided conflicting statements to the committee.

The nominee, Nusrat Jahan Choudhury, is legal director at the ACLU of Illinois and is nominated to serve as a district judge on the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

At a Thursday markup, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the panel’s ranking member, said committee Republicans wrote to Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) a day earlier asking for a rehearing regarding Choudhury’s responses to questions about whether she’d made a statement that police killings of unarmed Black men happen every day in the US.

The exchange Grassley referenced occurred at her April 27 confirmation hearing when Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) asked Choudhury if she made the statement at a 2015 panel at Princeton University.

Initially, Choudhury said that she was unsure if she made the statement but later said she believed that she was making that statement in her role as an advocate “to make a rhetorical point.”

Two weeks after her hearing, Choudhury wrote a letter to the committee saying she didn’t make that statement, Grassley said.

“This isn’t just a case where she misspoke and her letter clarifies what she meant, it directly conflicts,” Grassley said. “The only way of addressing this is for her to come back for another hearing.”

In the May 11 letter to the committee, Choudhury wrote to “correct the record” on the statement.

“I did not make this statement. I strongly disavow this statement, and I regret not disavowing this statement during my hearing. And to be clear, the statement is not true,” Choudhury said.

The statement in question was attributed to Choudhury in a tweet, Republicans cited in their letter to Durbin. In her own letter, Choudhury called that post “inaccurate” and said it “does not capture the full context of the discussion.”

She also pointed to a line from her Senate Judiciary Questionnaire in which she noted that “several of the statements attributed to me are inaccurate.” A Senate Judiciary Questionnaire is a document nominees submit before their hearings that provides details about their work history, writings, and speaking engagements.

Durbin didn’t address the comments from Grassley at the markup. A committee spokesperson declined to comment, but said the senator typically responds to letters.

Choudhury was one of five judicial picks at the Thursday markup whose nominations were held over for a week—a routine part of the confirmation process. Grassley’s comments—which included noting that Choudhury was opposed by law enforcement groups—came before the committee advanced four bipartisan police bills.

If confirmed, Choudhury would be the second Muslim and first Muslim woman to be a federal judge, according to the White House.

Prior to her work at the ACLU of Illinois, she worked at the ACLU Foundation in New York from 2008 to 2020 and served in several roles, including deputy director of the organization’s Racial Justice Program.

On the floor this week, Senate Democrats advanced several Biden judicial nominees, including confirming three district nominees Wednesday and voting Thursday to end debate on Sixth Circuit nominee Stephanie Dawkins Davis.

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at malder@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com