David Vitter

U.S. Sen. David Vitter and his wife Wendy reacts to the crowd during his election night watch party in Kenner, La., Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. (AP photo)

President Trump on Tuesday formally nominated attorney Wendy Vitter to be a federal judge in New Orleans.

The Advocate reported in September that U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy had forwarded three names for a vacant district court judgeship but that Vitter would likely get the nod.

Vitter, whose husband David Vitter served two terms in the U.S. Senate, serves as general counsel for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. She will have to win the Senate's approval to take the bench.

If confirmed, Vitter will be a judge on the U.S. District Court for the state's Eastern District, based in New Orleans. Of the 15 judgeships in the New Orleans-based court, one of three federal judicial districts in the state, two are vacant.

The president also nominated Robert Summerhays to fill a vacant district court judgeship in the Western District of Louisiana.

Federal judgeships, which are lifetime appointments, are highly coveted among attorneys. 

Cassidy and U.S. Sen. John Kennedy endorsed both nominations.

“Judge Robert Summerhays and Wendy Vitter both have decades of legal and trial experience that make them excellent choices for these positions,” Cassidy said in a statement. “They are part of an outstanding group of individuals that President Trump has nominated to the federal bench.”

“I am thankful for President Trump’s swift work on judgeship appointments across Louisiana," said Kennedy. "As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I look forward to a thoughtful discussion with the nominees about their legal backgrounds, philosophies and approaches to constitutional principles. Mrs. Vitter has done very important work as a prosecutor and as legal counsel for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Judge Summerhays is a respected member of the bench with lengthy experience overseeing legal cases."

Kennedy's comments are especially important because he serves on the Judiciary Committee and, with Republicans holding only a narrow advantage, could sink either nomination with his opposition.

A Tulane Law School graduate, Wendy Vitter has been the general counsel for the Archdiocese since 2012.

She won respect while serving as the campaign manager for her husband’s three elections to the U.S. House and assisting in his two victorious Senate campaigns.

Before that, from 1984 to 1992, she worked in the office of Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick Sr., first as a law clerk and later as an assistant district attorney. During part of that time, she served as chief of felony trials and prosecuted more than 100 jury trials, specializing in homicide cases.

"The most important thing I thought I could ever do was to be a voice for victims who could not speak for themselves," she said once.

Her resumé lists Connick as a reference, along with New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond and U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt.

Her most memorable turn in the public spotlight came in 2007 following the revelation that phone records showed her husband had made five calls to the “D.C. Madam” escort service. In his first public comments, Sen. Vitter said he had sought forgiveness from God and his wife for unspecified “past actions.”

Steeling herself to speak publicly, Wendy Vitter said she loved him and forgave him.

"Like all marriages, ours is not perfect," she told reporters. "None of us are. But we chose to work together as a family."

Sen. Vitter chose not to seek re-election in 2016 after losing the governor's race the year before.

The two men whose names Cassidy sent to the White House but who were passed over are Thomas Flanagan, a New Orleans attorney, and Jay Wilkinson, a federal magistrate judge in New Orleans.

Summerhays is a bankruptcy judge for the Western District, which covers 42 parishes, including the cities of Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Shreveport and Monroe. He spent the past eight years as the district's chief bankruptcy judge.

Only two of the seven district judges in that 42-parish area are on active status; the president has nominated people for three of the vacancies. In the meantime, four judges on senior status are filling in.

"There continues to be a critical shortage of judges in the Western District," said Judge Robert G. James, who is one of the four and is based in Monroe.

Follow Tyler Bridges on Twitter, @tegbridges.