Jerret Raffety/AP
Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal

Wyoming Governor Nominates Wife for Judgeship

May 19, 2009 08:00 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
Gov. Dave Freudenthal has raised eyebrows for including his wife on a list of nominees to fill a judge’s seat in federal court.

Political Consequences Aside

Nancy Freudenthal would be the first female federal judge in Wyoming if she’s chosen to fill the open seat, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.

Her husband, Gov. Dave Freudenthal, said he thought “long and hard” about including her name in a list of three potential candidates to fill the judgeship, and he decided the issue ultimately came down to whether she should “be penalized for having married me,” The Associated Press reported.

In reference to Freudenthal’s decision, the Casper-Star Tribune wrote, “Expect to hear the ‘N’ word—nepotism.” However, President Barack Obama actually selects the nominee, who then moves to the U.S. Senate for consideration. The governor was asked to submit names because Wyoming’s congressional delegation is entirely Republican, the AP explained.

District Judge Norman E. Young and Ford T. Bussart, a lawyer, are also up for the president’s review.

Of being included on the list of potential nominees, Nancy Freudenthal said, “The other two names that were advanced are very capable and highly regarded attorneys, and of course one district court judge, and I really feel honored just being considered in their group.”

Freudenthal, herself, is a partner in the Davis and Cannon law firm.

The person chosen for this judgeship position would serve at the U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. Judge Clarence Brimmer “still hears cases even though he’s on senior status.”

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Opinion: Thoughts on Freudenthal’s nomination

Diana Vaughan, who heads Wyoming’s Republican Party, said Gov. Freudenthal’s decision to list his wife as a candidate for the opening in Cheyenne “doesn’t pass the smell test,” the AP stated.

Vaughan questioned why the list of names was sent to President Obama months ago, but “kept quiet until now.” She continued, “If this was a decision he was proud of he would have released the names when he submitted the letter to the White House back in March."

Gov. Freudenthal’s office said the situation was handled the same way as other Wyoming judgeships—by waiting to release names “until somebody asks who the nominees are, or until ultimately somebody is selected.”

Background: Another controversial nomination

In Alaska, former Gov. Frank Murkowski drew the ire of many for appointing his daughter, Lisa, to fill the U.S. Senate seat he vacated when he became governor. Some accused him of nepotism; in 2004, a law passed by the state legislature barred governors from “making any more long-term appointments to the U.S. Senate,” according to USA Today.

Related Topic: Supreme Court nominations

Presently, the U.S. Supreme Court is the subject of attention as the country waits to hear whom President Barack Obama will nominate to fill a spot being vacated by retiring Justice David H. Souter. Rumored potential nominees include current Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Jennifer Granholm, Michigan's governor. 

Voice of America quoted Arlen Specter, the long-term senator who just switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, as saying, “Women are underrepresented on the court. We do not have an Hispanic. African-Americans are underrepresented.”

On Aug. 30, 1967, the Senate confirmed the nomination of civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court, making him the first African-American Supreme Court Justice.

Reference: U.S. Government


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