Portman Presses Nominees to DC Courts on Need to Address Case Backlog to Deter Rising Crime in Nation’s Capital

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, pressed Loren AliKhan and John P. Howard III, nominees to be Associate Judges for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and Adrienne Jennings Noti, a nominee to be an Associate Judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, on how they planned to address the rise in crime in DC should they be confirmed. Portman highlighted the need to address the case backlog within the District of Columbia court systems to ensure that justice is done and that criminals are prosecuted properly in an effort to deter rising crime. 

Excerpts from his questioning can be found below and a video can be found here. 

Portman: “Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate it. I was thinking that the Ranking Member today, who is James Lankford, would go first. So I will be very brief to allow Senator Lankford to have an opportunity to speak. I’ve appreciated the testimony this morning, and I’ve looked at the background of all three of our candidates. They have good experience, both in law, in the nonprofit sector in one case, and all of you have contributed to your community in various ways. I appreciate that. 

“One of the things that was raised in our previous hearings with other judges is the issue of safety and violence in the District of Columbia, the increase in crime and the role that these courts play. Mayor Bowser, as you know perhaps, made a comment that she thought that the backlog was creating a safety issue for the District of Columbia and expressed some concerns about, again, the amount of criminal activity and the increase, really at an alarming rate. So I’d like all three of you to address that, if you would, understanding that every part of our government plays a role and the courts are not going to play the singular role, the only role here, but an important role in ensuring that justice is done and that criminals are prosecuted properly to try to act as a deterrence to crime. So could you each speak to the issue of crime in the District of Columbia and what your intent would be should you be confirmed?” 

Loren L. AliKhan, Nominee to be an Associate Judge for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals: “Thank you, Senator. I agree that crime is a problem in the district. As a longtime district resident, any crime is unacceptable. As a judge, I think the role is to take the cases that come before you, but one way in which I think, if I was fortunate enough to be confirmed, that I could assist is by quickly resolving criminal cases. While there are Speedy Trial Act concerns that come into play when things are in trial court, there’s no set time frame for deciding criminal appeals, so I would make it a priority to swiftly handle those cases because that brings closure and finality to the victim. It provides certainty to the public that public safety is being protected. And so I think it would be very important to prioritize those cases.” 

Portman: “I appreciate that response, and that also goes to the issue of the backlog, over 10,000 cases as I understand. So the expedited reviews are really important. Other thoughts from the other two candidates?” 

John P. Howard III, Nominee to be an Associate Judge for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals: “Thank you, Senator. I agree completely. And as a father, resident, homeowner in the District with my family, no amount of crime is acceptable. In addressing the crime, I would work diligently, as I do at my current court, to move those cases and attack the backlog. I think that’s the biggest thing we can do. The DC Court of Appeals has been without a full complement of judges for at least eight years now, and at this time has less than half of the senior judges assisting the active judges that they had at the time of the oldest vacancy. I think if I’m so blessed to be confirmed, I can take my skills managing a high-pressure and high-volume docket and ability to come up to speed quickly on the law and contribute in clearing that backlog and speedily processing criminal cases. Thank you.” 

Portman: “Thank you.” 

Adrienne Jennings Noti, Nominee to be an Associate Judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia: “Thank you, Senator Portman, for your question. I agree with my fellow nominees and I want to address more of your backlog question. When I was assigned to the family division in January of 2020, the pandemic hit in March and we shut down our courtrooms. And by May 2020, I had my first virtual trial and by August had a full virtual courtroom. And by October of 2020 had cleared entirely the backlog in my case load through collaborating with the other judges and by being efficient and scheduling tightly. So I think that I can bring those skills to the position of an associate judge, if fortunate enough to be confirmed.” 

Portman: “Thank you, Judge Noti. Those skills will be needed. And I appreciate again, all of you being here. I’m going to ask that any additional questions I have are questions for the record to be able to get to the other members, including Senator Lankford. And Senator Lankford, I thank you for being the Ranking Member today. Again, your Subcommittee role, it’s appropriate, in my view, and I hope we can move expeditiously ourselves. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”