Senate Democrats could vote on a Biden judicial nominee, who is under fire for unmasking the identity of an underage sexual assault victim, as soon as next week.
Following weeks of opposition from Republicans and sexual assault victim advocates, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) announced during a Thursday mark-up hearing that Michael Delaney, who is nominated for the First Circuit, could see a confirmation vote as early as next week.
Delaney may be the most controversial judicial nominee of President Joe Biden’s term. While working in private practice, he represented the prestigious St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire during a civil suit filed by a minor who was sexually assaulted on campus. During proceedings for that lawsuit, Delaney opposed a motion from the victim to remain anonymous during trial.
Delaney’s conduct, which was ultimately successful, sparked outrage from the victim, Chessy Prout, and her family. During Delaney’s first confirmation hearing, Republicans grilled him on his efforts to strip Prout’s anonymity and put Democrats, who have been outspoken about defending women and victims, in an awkward position.
On Tuesday the victims' rights organization End Rape on Campus spoke out against Delaney's nomination. "If confirmed, Michael Delaney's appointment to this important position will send a chilling message to survivors of sexual assault and advocates," the group wrote.
Despite pledges from Democrats and the White House to move forward on Delaney’s nomination, his ultimate confirmation is far from assured. Democrats are missing two senators, Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and John Fetterman (Pa.), due to serious illness. Until one of them returns, Delaney will likely need at least one Republican to vote for his confirmation.
New Hampshire senators Jeanne Shaheen (D.) and Maggie Hassan (D.) have led the effort to confirm Delaney. Shaheen previously supported Prout’s cause and called her campaign against sexual assault on school campuses "brave."
Durbin, who has yet to state if he will vote in favor of Delaney’s nomination, said "there have been some important issues raised" about his conduct. Durbin added, however, that he believes Delaney "needs to be treated fairly."
The Prout family attended Thursday’s judiciary hearing, telling the Washington Free Beacon their presence served "as a reminder that the voices of survivors need to be heard." Chessy Prout penned an op-ed in the Boston Globe earlier this month entitled, "I know Michael Delaney. After what he did, he doesn’t deserve to be a judge."