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After months of delay, Senate overwhelmingly OKs Fleissig as federal judge

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 7, 2010 - At the behest of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, the U.S. Senate voted today to confirm the presidential nomination of U.S. Magistrate Judge Audrey Fleissig to a district judgeship in eastern Missouri.

Fleissig’s nomination had been held up for months because of an anonymous "hold" by at least one senator. But the vote today to approve her was 90-0, said McCaskill spokeswoman Laura Myron.

Fleissig is a former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, serving a year that bridged the end of President Bill Clinton’s term and the beginning of President George W. Bush’s tenure.

In her floor speech this afternoon, McCaskill, D-Mo., lauded Fleissig as "the kind of person we need on the federal bench," citing such civic activities as Fleissig’s involvement in a charity group, Ready Readers, that encourages preschoolers to learn to read. Fleissig also teaches law classes at the Washington University School of Law and is a former president of the Women Lawyer’s Association of Greater St. Louis.

"She will be fair and she will work extremely hard,’’ McCaskill said.

Although the senator pledged, "I won’t go into one of my rants about ‘secret holds; I'll save that for another day,’ ‘’ she couldn’t stop herself. McCaskill added dryly, "There’s no reason this woman wasn’t on the bench months ago."

McCaskill has been campaigning to outlaw the Senate’s secret hold process, which she describes as "a practice whereby one senator can block anonymously a nomination or piece of legislation without public explanation."

She is close to having the 67 votes to do so. McCaskill and other Democrats are upset over at least 70 secret holds that Republicans have placed on President Barack Obama’s nominees.

In a statement issued after the vote, McCaskill said:

"I am so pleased that she has reached this moment in her career where she can become a United States District Federal Judge and provide the kind of atmosphere for justice that we hold so dear in this nation. I know that she will be impartial. I know that she will never let politics dictate a decision. I know the law will be her master and that she will listen carefully to the evidence and never think she knows best. Let the litigants try their cases and let the law reign supreme.”

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.