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Republican Senator Blocks the Nomination of the First Native American to Serve as Federal Judge in Montana

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, has blocked President Joe Biden’s federal district judge nominee, Danna Jackson, a Native American woman, from consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Jackson is a tribal attorney for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. 

A spokesperson for the senator said Daines decided not to return a “blue slip” that would have allowed Jackson to be considered.

By custom, senators must return blue slips (named for the color of the form) for district court nominees from their states to advance and receive a hearing before the Judiciary Committee.

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Jackson was nominated by Biden in April. Since then, Daines has held out the possibility of blocking Jackson’s nomination because, according to the senator, Biden “failed to seriously consult with me prior to making this nomination” but that he would evaluate her background and record to see if she was “the right fit for Montana.”

Rachel Demke, a spokesperson for Daines, said in a statement released lats Wednesday that the senator reviewed 15 applications to fill the vacancy for the federal court in Montana. Daines complains that the White House “never sought out his advice or choosing their nominee.” 

“Senator Daines believes confirming federal judges with lifetime tenure is among the most important decisions he will make and that these individuals must be trusted to not legislate from the bench and protect the Montana way of life,” she said.

The White House fired back on Thursday. White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement that Daines’ team interviewed Jackson more than six months ago, but Daines refused to meet with her.

“This claimed lack of consultation seems to be little more than pretext, and it’s shameful that Senator Daines is depriving Montana of the talents of a principled, fair, and impartial jurist like Danna Jackson, who would make history as Montana’s first Native American federal judge,” Bates said.

When the president nominated Jackson in April, three national Native American organizations — the National Congress of Americans Indians (NCAI), the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and National Native American Bar Association (NNABA) —  commended President Biden on Jackson’s nomination.

“NCAI is proud to support President Biden’s nomination of Danna Jackson to be the first-ever Native American to sit on the federal bench in the State of Montana,” National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Executive Director Larry Wright, Jr. said. “Ms. Jackson will bring deep Indian law and policy expertise to the federal bench. NCAI urges her swift confirmation in the U.S. Senate.”

“Danna Jackson has a long track record of public service, extensive federal legal experience, and is well qualified to be a federal judge,” said Native American Rights Fund (NARF) Executive Director John Echohawk. “We commend the Biden Administration’s selection of this historic nominee and exhort her confirmation. She will be a strong addition to the federal judiciary in Montana.”

Because Daines blocked her nomination, Jackson was not at a Judiciary Committee hearing with all of the other nominees on Wednesday for a hearing on their nominations.

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About The Author

Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi “Calm Before the Storm” Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].

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