Grassley delays vote on controversial 8th Circuit nominee to allow review of new information

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A screenshot of Leonard Steven Grasz testifying on Nov. 1.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has delayed a vote on a federal appeals court nominee who received a “not qualified” rating from the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary to allow time for review of additional information.

Grassley said (PDF) follow-up materials provided this week by the nominee, Leonard Steven Grasz, “appear to indicate that the ABA relied on faulty information in their evaluation of him,” the Omaha World-Herald reports.

Grassley, R-Iowa, said the vote on Grasz’s nomination to the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would be delayed for a week at the request of Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s top Democrat.

Grasz, a lawyer with Husch Blackwell in Omaha, has released a redacted copy of a complaint he made accusing a member of the state judicial nomination commission of undermining a candidate for the Nebraska Supreme Court for political reasons.

The ABA committee had said in a supplemental statement (page 16) that Grasz used confidential information in the complaint to try to influence the outcome of the nominating committee process. Grasz said the ABA had mischaracterized his complaint, according to the World-Herald.

“The purpose of the complaint was to rectify what my client and I considered to be improper and unethical political manipulation of a nonpolitical merit selection process by a political party official,” Grasz said.

Though the name of the official was redacted, the World-Herald deduced that Grasz was referring to lawyer Vince Powers, who was then-chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party and a member of the nominating commission.

Grasz had claimed the commission rejected the state supreme court candidate after Powers “participated in a calculated effort” to destroy the conservative candidate’s reputation by portraying the candidate as sexist in private deliberations.

Powers told the World-Herald that the complaint was “nonsense” and political bullying, but he couldn’t discuss private deliberations because of confidentiality rules.

But Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, in a statement submitted in response to a Judiciary Committee member’s request, said Grasz hadn’t broken any confidentiality rules, either in the original complaint or in his release of a copy to the Senate.

ABA communications manager Matt Cimento said the ABA is aware of Grasz’s submission of his nominating committee complaint and an accompanying cover letter. Feinstein has submitted questions to the ABA about the materials and the ABA doesn’t feel it is appropriate to comment until the questions are answered, Cimento said.

Updated at 2:15 p.m. to include information from Matt Cimento.

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