Trump moves to get more conservatives on federal bench
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Monday named 10 judges and other law professionals it plans to nominate for key posts as President Donald Trump works to place more conservatives on the nation’s federal courts.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that among the candidates are individuals previously named on Trump’s list of 21 possible picks for Supreme Court justice. All nominees would require Senate confirmation.
The announcement came less than a month after Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed, restoring the court’s conservative tilt.
Trump will nominate judges John K. Bush of Kentucky and Joan Larsen of Michigan for the bench of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. David Stras of Minnesota will be nominated for the 8th Circuit.
Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana will be nominated to serve on the 7th Circuit. Kevin Newsom of Alabama will be nominated as a circuit judge on the 11th Circuit.
Also to be nominated for federal court positions are David Nye of Idaho, Scott L. Palk of Oklahoma and Damien M. Schiff of California.
The president will also nominate two people for federal judgeships: Dabney L. Friedrich of Washington, D.C., and Terry F. Moorer of Alabama.
While appeals courts tends to have a lower public profile, their role in adjudicating many of the orders and laws put forth by the administration is significant.
Trump’s earliest efforts to implement his agenda were dramatically derailed by the courts, which pushed back against his proposed travel ban and his order to withhold funding from “sanctuary cities” that limit cooperation with immigration authorities.
After the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his immigration ban, Trump emphatically tweeted last February “SEE YOU IN COURT!” The administration vowed that it would re-appeal the ruling and either revise its original executive order or write a new one from scratch. But while a revised ban was later released, that too was blocked by the courts.
Trump said last month that he is considering breaking up the 9th Circuit, a federal appeals court that covers Western states and which has long been a target of Republicans. It would take congressional action to break up the 9th U.S. Circuit, and Republicans introduced bills this year to do just that.
Gorsuch’s 66-day confirmation process was swift, but bitterly divisive. It saw Senate Republicans trigger the “nuclear option” to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster threshold for Gorsuch and all future high court nominees. The change allowed the Senate to hold a final vote to approve Gorsuch with a simple majority.
Most Democrats refused to support Gorsuch because they were still seething over the Republican blockade last year of President Barack Obama’s pick for the same seat, Merrick Garland. Senate Republicans refused to even hold a hearing for Garland, saying a high court replacement should be up to the next president.
“With this first slate of lower court nominees, it seems that the President is intent on continuing to outsource the judicial selection process to hard right, special interest groups rather than consulting with Senators on a bipartisan basis,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a statement. “The president should work with members of both parties to pick judges from within the judicial mainstream, who will interpret the law rather than make it.”
Larsen, a former professor at the University of Michigan law school, has served on the Michigan Supreme Court bench since September 2015 and has written majority opinions in five cases.
Stras, 42, would join a court that already is dominated by Republican nominees. Larsen and Newsom would replace judges who also were nominated by Republicans.
Among the nominees are four lawyers who once served as Supreme Court law clerks. Stras worked for Justice Clarence Thomas and Newsom served under Justice David Souter. Larsen and Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett worked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Bush authored a Supreme Court brief in a high-profile case about race and public schools. Bush wrote on behalf of the local Chamber of Commerce in defense of the Jefferson County, Kentucky, school system plan to maintain diversity in local schools. In 2007, the court’s conservative majority ruled 5-4 in favor of challengers to the school system.
Associated Press writer Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis, Ed White in Detroit and Mark Sherman in Washington contributed to this report.