After months of inaction by the Senate, the Committee on the Judiciary sent Arvo Mikkanen’s nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma back to the White House. Mikkanen is a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. Opposition to his confirmation comes as a disappointment to many natives who’d have liked to see an American Indian actively serving in the federal judicial branch. Only two American Indians have held such a position in court history.
Support from the Oklahoma delegation was lacking from the outset of Mikkanen’s nomination in February of this year. In an official statement, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) expressed “serious concerns,” and felt Mikkanen to be “unacceptable for the position.” Senator Coburn did not provide further explanation as to why he felt the nominee was “unacceptable.”
Mikkanen has served as Assistant U.S. Attorney in Oklahoma City; clerkship for two different federal judges; experience with the U.S. Department of the Interior courts, serving tribes that had no tribal court in place; time spent as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribes and a current term as President of the Oklahoma Indian Bar Association; he was unanimously rated “qualified” by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on judicial nominees.