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Minnesota Justice David Stras set for Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday

November 29, 2017 GMT

After months of uncertainty, Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras is expected to be on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning for a hearing on his nomination to a federal appellate court seat.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up President Donald Trump’s selection of Stras, announced last May, to fill a vacancy on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals — despite objections from Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who is also on the committee.

Earlier this month, committee chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he would proceed with hearings for Stras and another appellate court candidate despite objections from home-state senators which, by Senate custom, would stall their hearings.

Calling Stras “exceptionally well-qualified,” Grassley said he would not allow senators to wield the traditional “blue-slip” veto over judicial nominees. Franken, who returned to work Monday after multiple sexual harassment allegations surfaced earlier this month, announced in September that he would not return a blue slip for Stras.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who is also on the Judiciary Committee, did consent to a hearing for Stras. But Franken expressed concern over Stras’ “deeply conservative judicial philosophy” and said the White House has “outsourced” judicial selection to conservative interest groups like the Federalist Society. Franken also said the White House failed to consult him and Klobuchar, another Senate custom, before nominating Stras. Grassley, however, said this month that the White House “earnestly and repeatedly attempted to work with both home-state senators” from January through May.

A University of Kansas Law School graduate, Stras spent several years in private practice in Minnesota and served on the University of Minnesota Law School faculty before becoming a judge. Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed him to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2010.

Stras also appeared on a shortlist of U.S. Supreme Court candidates being considered by then-candidate Trump last year. A revised list issued this month still names Stras, and now refers to him as an Eighth Circuit judge.

Shortly after his nomination for the appeals court, which is based in St. Louis and covers the District of Minnesota, a wide swath of local legal professionals and former elected officials wrote the state’s senators in support of Stras.

“While he looks at issues from a definite and well-defined perspective; he evaluates legal issues with objectivity and an open mind, traits that are not universal,” read a May letter signed by retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justices Alan Page, Helen Meyer and Paul Anderson. “We found him to be independent and impartial in his approach to the law.”

A Stras confirmation is expected to open the way to fill several additional key federal vacancies in Minnesota. Trump has not announced nominees for U.S. attorney, two federal judgeships or U.S. marshal — some of which have been vacant since May 2016.

Jennifer Brooks • 202-662-7452

Stephen Montemayor • 612-673-1755