Rubio backed Obama judge pick, then pulled support
January 8th, 2014
03:47 PM ET
8 months ago

Rubio backed Obama judge pick, then pulled support

Updated 7:39 p.m. ET, 1/8/2014

(CNN) – Sen. Marco Rubio was for the nomination of Judge William Thomas, before he was against him.

Thomas was President Barack Obama's pick for a vacant federal judicial seat in Florida, Rubio's home state. The White House has now pulled the nomination, according to an administration official.

Under arcane rules, a senator can unilaterally block the Senate from considering a nominee from his home state by refusing to return a so-called blue slip.

In light of the Rubio objection, President Obama decided not to renominate Thomas.

Rubio spokesperson Brooke Sammon said on Wednesday the nomination was thoroughly reviewed.

"Senator Rubio has determined that Thomas's record on the state court raises serious concerns about his fitness for a lifetime federal appointment," she said. "Those concerns include questions about his judicial temperament and his willingness to impose appropriate criminal sentences . ... after reviewing Thomas's record, Senator Rubio cannot support moving forward with the nomination," she said.

The move stands in contrast to Rubio's previous support for Thomas.

In a letter signed by Rubio, and first obtained by CNN, the Florida Republican joined with Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democrat who holds the other Florida Senate seat, in endorsing Thomas.

The senators provided White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler a list of three names they supported for the vacant judgeship. Judge Thomas was among those names listed. Rubio and Nelson, in their joint letter, said they individually interviewed and had "no objection to any of the finalists."

Thomas was first nominated in November 2012 to a seat on the Miami-based U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. He currently is a state circuit judge for Miami-Dade, first elected to the post in 2005.

Thomas was the only one of 55 pending presidential nominees for various posts whose name was not resubmitted to the Senate last week for confirmation.

The change of heart has raised criticism from liberal legal activists in part because Thomas is highly regarded in the South Florida legal community, and because of his extraordinary personal story.

Born and raised in housing projects in southwestern Pennsylvania, he is the ninth of 10 children raised by a single mother on welfare.

He would have become the first openly gay African-American federal judge, according to supporters.

Rubio's office cited two criminal cases presided over by the judge.

Joel Lebron had his capital case tossed out by Thomas in September 2012. Police said the defendant admitted to participating in the gang rape and murder a decade earlier of an 18-year-old woman in Boca Raton.

But the judge declared a mistrial over testimony from a detective the jury was not supposed to hear from. Prosecutors said the error did not merit a mistrial.

Lebron was tried again, convicted and sentenced to death by the jury. Thomas also presided over the retrial.

Separately, Michele Traverso was convicted of charges related to the 2012 hit-and-run death of a cyclist and served just 264 days of a one-year sentence.

Family and supporters of victim Aaron Cohen - a popular local bicyclist - said the defendant should have faced tougher charges and longer jail time, as much as 15 years under the judge's discretion.

Traverso was charged with and plead guilty to leaving the scene of the accident involving death and bodily harm, and driving with a suspended license.

An assistant who answered a call to Thomas's chambers said he was in court overseeing a trial and unavailable for comment.


Filed under: Marco Rubio
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. The Real Tom Paine

    His poll numbers must be dropping.

    January 8, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. eww

    Can't wait to hear Rubio's reasoning for not supporting Thomas again. When Thomas' upbringing is a classic story of the American Dream it seems as though the republicans are digging their heels in again to thwart any Obama initiative. I think with a fewer number of republicans in both houses of Congress we may finally get this country pulling itself out of this recession and putting people back to work all while decreasing the debt.

    January 8, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  3. Gurgyl

    What a FICKLE-MINDED idiot. Is this the one people are electing–very pathetic. USA, better get educated.

    January 8, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  4. just saying

    his opinion 'evolved' just as obama's did with regards to gay marriage. people aren't allowed to change their minds based on new information?

    January 8, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Since Sen. Reid took the republican obstruction playbook and went nuclear on them, these are the type of the games they're going to play. As for Rubio, we should learn that whenever he's for something, he's ultimately against it. Like HIS immigration bill.

    January 8, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  6. CryBabies

    So???? If my memory serves me well BO said that marriage was between a man and a woman. Then as he "evolved", gay marriage was supported by him. The moral of the story: People change their minds. Very plain, very simple.

    January 8, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  7. tom l

    I guess his position has "evolved" over time....

    January 8, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    How wonderfully petty. I guess "political revenge" is the watch-phrase for the GOP/Teatrolls this year.

    January 8, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  9. Romney is STILL NOT My Hero

    Very suspect, Rubio. Are you mad with the man because he's gay, OUT & proud? Rubio needs to come out, too. He'll feel better. BTW, CNN – Headline's wrong... Rubio has never "backed" anyone. We all know he's a bottom and not a top.

    January 8, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. O'drama ya Mama

    Rubio: I support the President's nomina....oh the rest of you are gonna oppose him...oh ok....I do NOT support the Presidents nomination.

    January 8, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  11. O'drama ya Mama

    just saying

    his opinion 'evolved' just as obama's did with regards to gay marriage. people aren't allowed to change their minds based on new information?
    January 8, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________

    What new information do you speak of? Is it possible that he realized he'd be the only Republican supporting this nomination and did not want to get eatin by his own kind?

    January 8, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  12. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Vote this rat out!

    January 8, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "his opinion 'evolved' just as obama's did with regards to gay marriage. people aren't allowed to change their minds based on new information?"

    What new information? Hmmm? Cite it.

    January 8, 2014 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  14. Roger

    This is just his way of getting his name in the media. Funny how both he and the N.J. governor can't seem to find a good meaningful,positive, way of doing that though huh ?

    January 8, 2014 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  15. Tampa Tim

    Rubio is trying so hard to keep baggers happy. What a tool he is.

    January 8, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  16. tom l

    @Sniffit
    ""his opinion 'evolved' just as obama's did with regards to gay marriage. people aren't allowed to change their minds based on new information?"

    What new information? Hmmm? Cite it."

    =======

    Are you going to cite that same new information that helped to evolve Obama's stance on gay marriage?

    January 8, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  17. jinx9to88

    Wow and this is news? GOP are for something until Obama agrees with it then they are against it. Florida should be sooooo proud of this clown and the drug addict Radal. Florida sure knows how to pick winners to represent them.

    January 8, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  18. tom l

    It's become apparent that it's obvious why the people on the left oppose Rubio, right Sniffit?

    January 8, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  19. Silence DoGood

    @O'drama ya Mama
    Rubio: I support the President's nomina....oh the rest of you are gonna oppose him...oh ok....I do NOT support the Presidents nomination.
    --------
    Rubio forgot the GOP lock step memo – You WILL opposed everything Obama. This is not even about politics or opinion or conservatives or anything. Just oppose Obama. I think if Obama proposed repealing all gun restrictions, stopping all taxes, and doubling corporate handouts, they would still oppose Obama, just because they are told that.

    January 8, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  20. Lynda/Minnesota

    "The move stands in contrast to Rubio's previous support for Thomas."

    Oh, not to worry, CNN. We've come to expect this type of behavior from GOPerville. It is the only constant in their repertoire. Many times they backtrack within minutes of issuing statements, continually contradicting themselves depending on who is managing their fundraising portfolio statements and issues.

    Rubio does tend to get caught backtracking more than others.

    January 8, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  21. rs

    Republican reactionary obstruction in action. Rubio was for this guy, and now that the President has nominated him- he uses a Senatorial "hold" to block a guy he supported! Republicans are unreal!

    January 8, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  22. The REAL Truth...

    Don't these GOPerville residents have another page (any page) in their play book? The same-o. same-o approach is really old.

    January 8, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "Are you going to cite that same new information that helped to evolve Obama's stance on gay marriage?"

    Again, analogy fail. Matters of conscience, personal belief about morality, religious viewpoints, etc., are not the same thing as a Senator's duty to "advise and consent" based on the objective merits of a nominee's qualifications for the position in question. Besides, if you want to know, you can look up all that Obama has said about it and what information and understandings he used and what changed for him...starting with his statements from the get-go that he was open to changing them. Rubio has provided zero rational justification for his change and we all know it's nothing more than retaliation for the Senate reforming the filibuster with respect to judicial nominations.

    January 8, 2014 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  24. CALIFORNIA

    Now it's a crime for people to change their minds, when it's other than a democrat that is.

    January 8, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  25. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    The GOP teaparty bum probably had to check with his sponsors , the teaparty Koch bros. Rubio,if you want to only represent four lock brothers out of the whole state of Florida , WE DONT NEED YOU or the GOP !!!!!

    January 8, 2014 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
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