Democrats target Michael Park, Trump judicial pick, over defense of census citizenship question

February 13, 2019 GMT

Senate Democrats signaled Wednesday that their next target among President Trump’s judicial nominees will be Michael Park, saying he’s been tainted by his work on behalf of conservative clients.

Mr. Park would be the first Korean American judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals but Democrats said that historic accomplishment isn’t enough to overcome their fears that he would display a conservative judicial philosophy.

Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer led the opposition from the chamber floor, saying his work as an attorney involved trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act, roll back affirmative action and defund Planned Parenthood.

“Park is currently working to defend the Trump Administration’s effort to insert a citizenship question into the 2020 census a cynical effort to discourage people from responding to the census,” Mr. Schumer said.

The Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing for Mr. Park on Wednesday, and he said he would probably recuse himself from cases his law firm worked on “for a period of time.”

He also promised to be a fair judge.

“The job of a litigator is to represent the interests of their clients,” Mr. Park said. “That’s pretty fundamentally different from the job of a judge, which is to decide cases impartially without regard to who the parties are before you.”

Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, questioned the nominee about whether he’s personally agreed with all of his clients’ positions and even if he’s liked all of the people he represented.

“I shouldn’t say with specificity but it has varied,” Mr. Park said.

“I don’t think my own views matter in representation of my clients,” he said.

Mr. Schumer and fellow New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand have declined to return their blue slips for Mr. Park, and also for Judge Joseph F. Bianco, another 2nd Circuit nominee.

Not returning blue slips is a way of signaling senators do not acquiesce to a nomination.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, has said that he won’t move on district court nominees where senators don’t return blue slips, but said he won’t let circuit court nominees be vetoed by blue slip objections.