After long wait, Senate confirms Pryor to federal appeals bench

A 2 1/2-year odyssey for Jill Pryor ended Monday night when the U.S. Senate confirmed her to serve as a judge on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

The unanimous vote came as the Senate returned from its August break and ended the second-longest confirmation wait of any judicial nominee by President Barack Obama.

“I don’t dwell on that,” Pryor, a partner at the Atlanta law firm Bondurant Mixson and Elmore, wrote in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“During this time I have been fortunate to be able to continue doing what I love, practicing law with people I respect and whose company I enjoy tremendously,” she wrote. “However long it took to come to fruition, I recognize how very lucky I am to be where I am today.”

Pryor was first tapped in February 2012 and then was renominated last year as part of a package of Georgia nominees carefully negotiated among the White House and the state's Republican U.S. senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss.

Isakson praised Obama and the White House staff Monday on the Senate floor for their work on the package of nominees, calling Pryor "an outstanding individual of impeccable credentials, impeccable integrity, and she will be a great credit to the 11th Circuit." She is the second member of the package deal to be confirmed, following Judge Julie Carnes' confirmation to the same appeals court in July.

Pryor, 51, has handled many complex business cases, including as part of the team in 2008 that won a $281 million jury verdict in a breach of contract case involving the sale of the Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers. The Yale Law School graduate is a past president of the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers.

“As a judge, I will do my best to administer justice fairly and impartially, and as expeditiously as possible,” Pryor wrote in an email. “I look forward to joining my future colleagues and am honored to have this opportunity to serve my country.”

Several more long-delayed Georgia confirmations await.

The other pending judicial nominees include Atlanta attorneys Mark Cohen and Leigh Martin May, and DeKalb County State Court Judge Eleanor Ross for the U.S. District Court in Atlanta; and Atlanta Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Joyce Abrams for the U.S. District Court in Albany.

Those four have cleared committee and await consideration on the Senate floor, which relies on the whims of leadership and a dwindling calendar before Congress skips town for the election.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond Law School professor who closely tracks the judicial nominations process, said he is confident the quartet can get through in the next couple of weeks because three of them would fill “judicial emergencies” and backing from Isakson and Chambliss could help put the Republican heat on.

“The nominees also require little debate time, so (Majority Leader Harry) Reid could set votes on them before the Senate leaves to campaign,” Tobias wrote in an email.

And then there is controversial Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs, whom Democrats have held up with questions about his conservative record as a rural Democrat in the state Legislature in the early 2000s. He is a long shot to survive his U.S. District Court nomination after being forced to respond to additional questions about his stances on abortion, gay marriage and keeping the old Georgia state flag that bore the Confederate battle emblem.

The White House has stood by him, but Boggs has not yet received a committee vote and Reid, D-Nev., said he would oppose Boggs' nomination.

Pryor’s confirmation means the 11th Circuit carries the odd distinction of having two Pryors and two Carneses among its judges. Ed Carnes is the Montgomery, Ala.-based chief judge for the circuit, and Judge William H. Pryor Jr. serves in Birmingham.