January 13th, 2012
05:52 PM ET
(CNN) –Sen. Robert Menendez is finally giving the go ahead to one of President Obama’s high profile judicial appointments, ending the New Jersey Democrat’s showdown with his own party that some attributed to a personal grudge.
In a statement released Friday, Menendez said he was dropping his opposition to Judge Patty Shwartz’s nomination to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Obama nominated Shwartz to the prestigious court nearly three months ago. Menendez, who as Shwartz’s home-state senator has the power block her nomination, originally expressed concerns with Shwartz’s understanding of certain areas of campaign finance law following an initial meeting with her.
But supporters of Shwartz suspected Menendez was actually motivated by a personal grudge with Shwartz’s longtime boyfriend, a federal prosecutor who investigated Menendez in 2006 over suspicion of corruption. No charges were filed but the investigation threatened to imperil Menendez’s Senate campaign that year.
Menedez’s office strongly denied the holdup of Shwartz was at all related to her boyfriend, insisting that the senator was instead concerned she wasn’t suitable for a post on the powerful Third Circuit.
But following intense media pressure, Menendez agreed to meet with Shwartz a second time Friday, during which the current district court judge appears to have allayed Menendez’s concerns over her legal suitability.
“Judge Shwartz satisfactorily answered questions covering important legal topics such as current law on the rights of corporations under the First Amendment, constitutional limits on Executive Branch power and the application of heightened standards of review under the Constitution,” Menendez said in a statement.