Arvo Mikkanen’s name was sent back to President Obama after his nomination for a federal judgeship garnered serious opposition from Oklahoma’s senators and had little longterm support from the administration, reports NewsOK. He was one of eight judicial nominees returned to the White House by the Senate last weekend.
Mikkanen was nominated to serve as a federal judge on the Northern District Court of Oklahoma in Tulsa. He is a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma; had his nomination been successful, Mikkanen would have been the only American Indian to be actively serving in the federal judiciary, and only the third known American Indian in history to serve in federal judicial branch.
Mikkanen’s resume includes 16 years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Oklahoma City and service on Interior Department courts for tribes without their own judicial systems. He is a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribes and the current President of the Oklahoma Indian Bar Association. He was deemed qualified unanimously by the American Bar Association.
Mikkanen never received a Judiciary Committee hearing because of opposition from Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, both Republicans. Neither senator was consulted by the administration before Obama announced Mikkanen’s nomination in February; Coburn called Mikkanen’s nomination “unacceptable,” but he did not elaborate.
NewsOK followed up its coverage of Mikkanen’s failed nomination with an editorial entitled, “Mystery surrounds rejection of Mikkanen judicial nomination.” It questions why Mikkanen’s nomination encountered such ardent and ambiguous resistance from Coburn and Inhofe. It compares Mikkanen’s experience and background to that of Judge Jerome Holmes, whose 2006 nomination to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was supported by both senators. The editorial suggests politics may be the heart of Coburn and Inhofe’s opposition, as Mikkanen is a registered Democrat, and says only the senators can solve that mystery.
There are currently 37 judicial nominees at held up in the Senate. Of them, 21 are awaiting action on the Senate floor. The Senate recessed for the holidays without acting on any of them.