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Senate panel approves controversial Ohio judicial nominees

February 7, 2019 GMT

Senate panel approves controversial Ohio judicial nominees

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted along party lines to approve President Donald Trump’s nominations of Ohio Solicitor General Eric Murphy and former Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Chad Readler to lifetime judicial appointments on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Democrats including Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown said stances the pair took in past litigation should disqualify them from judgeships. Murphy drew fire for arguing the state of Ohio’s position on issues including its procedures for purging inactive voters from its rolls and its ban on gay marriages.

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Readler signed briefs that challenged the legality of the Affordable Care Act’s protection of Americans with pre-existing medical conditions, and defended controversial Trump administration immigration policies including separation of undocumented immigrant children from their parents. Brown also objected to Readler’s role as an advocate for public charter schools in Ohio.

“They have a proven record of fighting to strip Ohioans of their rights,” Brown told reporters on Wednesday.

In an October confirmation hearing, the pair told the Senate Judiciary Committee they were merely arguing their clients’ positions in controversial cases. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman endorsed them, saying both had “very distinguished public service” careers.

U.S. Senate considers controversial Ohio nominees for federal judgeships

“Mr. Murphy and Mr. Readler are both well-qualified,” Portman said in October. “They both have argued and won cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and numerous lower courts. They both clerked for Circuit Court judges, which gives them unique insights into the roles they’d be asked to take on should they be confirmed.”

The Judiciary Committee approved their nominations in 12-10 votes, with approval from all the committee’s Republicans and disapproval from all its Democrats.

The committee unanimously signed off on two other Ohio judicial nominees who were less controversial: Pamela A. Barker, to be a United States District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio, and Sarah Daggett Morrison, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Ohio.

Brown had described them as “two very qualified, experienced and well-respected nominees,” and said their nominations proved that Democrats and Republicans could find consensus on judicial nominees.

All four nominations will proceed to the Senate floor, where they’re likely to be approved. A Brown spokeswoman said he’ll continue to oppose Readler and Murphy when the full Senate considers the matter.