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President Barack Obama’s nominee for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals faced some questions Wednesday about her choice of clients in private practice. But the nominee, Jane Branstetter Stranch of Nashville, Tenn., came out of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee largely unscathed and supported by her state’s two Republican senators. Stranch, a partner in Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, has represented labor unions in federal employment litigation, as well as pensioners and retirees making claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. She also served as a member of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee from 2003 to 2006, and she’s never been a judge. So the question from Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, was no surprise. He asked Stranch whether she would be able to put aside her labor work when judging cases. “Yes, Senator, I would,” Stranch replied. “If I have the privilege of serving, I will do what the law calls me to do — not to be a respecter of anyone, but to be an equal treater of all.” In response to a separate question from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., about how she chose her areas of practice, Stranch said she was “proud to have represented working men and women across America — individuals as well as labor organizations.” The answers appeared to be good enough for Sessions, who said he was impressed and called her a “good nominee.” Tennessee’s two Republican senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, had already introduced Stranch to the Judiciary Committee and indicated their support. A committee vote is likely in the next several weeks. Stranch is the only lawyer currently in private practice nominated to an appellate judgeship by President Barack Obama. But other judicial nominees have been asked about their choice of clients while in private practice, including Chief Judge David Hamilton of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Hamilton, who has been nominated for elevation to the 7th Circuit, represented the American Civil Liberties Union pro bono in the 1980s, and his nomination has stalled. In response to another question from Sessions, Stranch declined to support Obama’s endorsement of empathy in judging. “I will be objective and fair, and I do recognize that I’m bound by existing precedent and by law, and that those are the things that will govern my decision-making,” she said.

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