8th Circuit nominee wins quick approval; did Grassley connection help?

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Jane Kelly won confirmation to the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, just 83 days after her nomination.

Kelly was approved faster than any other of President Obama’s circuit nominees, The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times reports. The average approval time for uncontroversial circuit nominees is 272 days.

Why the quick turnaround? The BLT notes an attenuated connection to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kelly once clerked for Judge David Hansen of the 8th Circuit, a former small-town lawyer who had campaigned for Grassley when the candidate was hospitalized during his first run for U.S. Congress. At the time, lawyer Hansen was a Republican county chairman.

“I won that primary and won that election, obviously,” Grassley told the BLT, and Hansen “gets all the credit for it.” Grassley remembered the favor and suggested Hansen first for a federal judgeship and then for the 8th Circuit. Grassley has said Hansen described Kelly as “a forthright woman with high integrity,” the Gazette reports.

Kelly also has a good relationship with Iowa’s Democratic senator, Tom Harkin, the BLT notes.

Kelly has been a federal public defender since 1994, becoming supervising attorney in the Cedar Rapids office in 1999, according to the Gazette.

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