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Editorial: Washington must move on John Sinatra judicial nomination

President Trump must renominate Buffalo attorney John L. Sinatra Jr. to fill the area’s long-vacant federal judgeship, and then the Senate should quickly move to confirm him.

The seat has been technically vacant for nearly five years. Prolonging the nomination would only continue the mounting backlog of civil and criminal cases in an already overburdened federal courts system.

Trump nominated Sinatra to the slot of U.S. District Court Judge William M. Skretny in May. The Senate did not act on the president’s nomination.

The body also failed to act on the nomination of 69 other federal judicial appointments last year. This inaction is curious, since the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Sinatra’s nomination by a 16-5 vote Aug. 1.

It’s worth noting that vote occurred a week before federal prosecutors charged his brother’s business associate, Rep. Chris Collins, with fraud and conspiracy in connection with an alleged insider trading scheme.

Still, Sinatra’s name was on Trump’s desk, along with several others. The Senate had not acted on those names so it was left to Trump to renominate those prospective judges. Then it would be the duty of the newly elected Senate to consider those nominations this year. The president has renominated 51 of those judges. But what of the rest?

The explanation as to why the president did not renominate Sinatra offers some hope – “Last night’s announcement was only the first pass of presidential renominations for judicial candidates,” News Washington bureau chief Jerry Zremski quoted a spokeswoman for Collins. Sinatra is expected to be renominated soon, she said. That’s good, but why the delay?

The prospective judge has strong bipartisan support along with high praise from colleagues who can attest to his work ethic. The absence of his name from the nomination rolls is troubling. Is there something we don’t know?

Sinatra has ties to Collins through his brother, Buffalo developer Nick Sinatra. Since 2014, Collins has invested between $3.5 million and $13 million with Nick Sinatra and, as has been reported in these pages, Collins also loaned the developer’s company at least $1 million.

We trust that as judge, he would properly handle matters that might involve the congressman – which is to say, that he would recuse himself.

Skretny moved to senior status four years ago. He has graciously and vigorously continued to work since then. It continues to be unfair to Skretny and the public to allow the process to grind on.

The judges in New York’s Western District have been dealing with a mounting backlog of cases that number into the hundreds.

Either get this done or explain the delay.

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