Ghislaine Maxwell's judge, up for appellate court promotion, faces U.S. Senate panel

by Reuters
Wednesday, 15 December 2021 22:03 GMT

Alison Nathan, the Manhattan federal judge overseeing the sex abuse trial of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, testifies in regards to her nomination for a seat on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals during a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 15, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

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U.S. District Judge, Alison Nathan is nominated to 2nd Circuit

Dec 15 - The Manhattan federal judge overseeing the sex abuse trial of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell on Wednesday took a break from the high-profile case to go before a U.S. Senate panel weighing whether to promote her to an appellate judgeship.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan faced no questions from the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee about the late financier Jeffrey Epstein's associate as its members considered her nomination to join the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Instead, Republicans grilled Nathan, 49, on positions she took largely before she joined the bench in 2012 against the death penalty and gun rights while questioning why she allowed some inmates to leave prison early during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She was nominated by President Joe Biden in November and, if confirmed by the Senate, would be just the second openly LGBT woman to serve on any appeals court after another Biden appointee, Beth Robinson, likewise joined the 2nd Circuit.

The hearing came after prosecutors on Friday rested their case against Maxwell, who prosecutors say recruited and groomed underage girls for Epstein to abuse.

The trial is on a break for what Nathan called a scheduling conflict, allowing her to appear in Washington, D.C. Defense lawyers begin their case Thursday. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty.

During Wednesday' hearing, Nathan said her record in more than 3,000 cases "demonstrated the type of judge that I am" and called the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, for whom she clerked, a model.

"He taught me something that I've tried to embody throughout my career, which is you can disagree without being disagreeable and you have to approach every case with an open mind," she said.

But Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas argued Nathan had displayed "predictably knee-jerk, left-wing views" when it came to gun rights, immigration and the death penalty.

Most Republican questions concerned decisions Nathan issued granting inmates compassionate release after the pandemic began in early 2020 amid the spread of the coronavirus within prisons.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the committee's ranking Republican, said in several cases Nathan granted compassionate release to inmates who "had violent criminal histories and were at very low risk of death or serious illness."

Nathan said that she, like many other judges nationally, had faced an influx of such requests and that she rejected most due to a risk of danger to the community.