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Schumer agrees to Sinatra appointment as federal judge

WASHINGTON – Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer this week agreed that Buffalo attorney John L. Sinatra should be appointed as a federal judge in the Western District of New York, acceding to an expected presidential nomination that had long been pushed by Rep. Chris Collins, a Clarence Republican.

“Senator Schumer communicated to the White House this week his support for John Sinatra Jr. to serve on the Western District federal bench in Buffalo," Jason Kaplan, a spokesman for Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Wednesday.

"This nomination was the result of a sound, collaborative and bipartisan process that produced a well-respected and legally-qualified choice with broad bipartisan support throughout Buffalo and the Western New York community," Kaplan added. "Senator Schumer hopes the Senate will confirm Mr. Sinatra, as well as other bipartisan judicial nominees, as quickly as possible.”

The Trump administration has not yet formally announced Sinatra's nomination, but is expected to do so on Thursday. Collins had recommended Sinatra to the White House last year.

"While President Trump has not made this nomination official, Congressman Collins cannot think of a better choice to serve as New York’s Western District federal judge than John Sinatra," Collins spokeswoman, Sarah Minkel, said Wednesday. "John has an impressive legal mind and extraordinary qualifications. Congressman Collins joins Senator Schumer in not only supporting this nomination, but the bipartisan, collaborative process that will lead to it."

Still, when word of Sinatra's possible nomination became public last year, some questioned the possible appointment just because Collins is a partner with Sinatra's brother, local developer Nick Sinatra, on several real estate ventures.

"Is it his legal proficiency or his brother's relationships with Chris Collins and Donald Trump that qualifies him for the position?" Robert Galbraith, senior research analyst for a Buffalo-based, good-government group called the Public Accountability Initiative, asked at the time.

Rep. Chris Collins pushes business partner's brother for federal judgeship

Several prominent Buffalo lawyers, Democrat and Republican alike, last fall said Sinatra would be an excellent choice to be a federal judge.

"He's low-key, hardworking, smart, solid and trustworthy," Terrence M. Connors, a leading local lawyer and a Democrat, said then. "John Sinatra has established a reputation as one of the top commercial litigators in our region."

Dennis C. Vacco, a former U.S. attorney in Buffalo and state attorney general, agreed.

"He's a skilled practitioner, a very thoughtful guy, and he's got a great judicial temperament," Vacco said.

Sinatra got his undergraduate and his law degree from the University at Buffalo. He clerked at the state's highest court and began his career at the Cleveland office of Jones Day, one of the nation's top law firms.

He later worked as a Department of Commerce lawyer under President George W. Bush. Then Sinatra came home to Buffalo to join Hodgson Russ.

That law firm's chairman, Daniel C. Oliverio, said that with nearly 20 years of experience in the federal courts, Sinatra is prepared to be a judge.

If confirmed by the Senate, Sinatra would replace U.S. District Court Judge William M. Skretny, who moved to senior status several years ago.

Former President Barack Obama originally nominated Buffalo lawyer Kathleen M. Sweet for the position in March 2016, and while the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on her nomination, the Republican Senate never took up her nomination.

Then Republican Donald Trump got elected president in November 2016, upending the pending nominations of Democratic judicial appointments such as Sweet all around the country.

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