Trump sets off to stock courts with con­ser­va­tives

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALEX SWOYER

Fresh off his suc­cess­ful Supreme Court bat­tle, Pres­i­dent Trump will now try his luck stock­ing the fed­eral ap­peals court with con­ser­va­tive ju­rists — and Democrats are mostly pow­er­less to stop him.

First up is Judge Amul R. Tha­par, whom Mr. Trump has tapped to sit on the 6th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals and who will sit for his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing in the Se­nate on Wed­nes­day.

Pro­gres­sive ac­tivist groups are pre­par­ing for a fight, saying Judge Tha­par has sev­eral con­tro­ver­sial rul­ings on his record.

But Se­nate Democrats said they have yet to ex­am­ine Judge Tha­par’s nom­i­na­tion and haven’t re­vealed a strat­egy for him or for the rest of Mr. Trump’s fed­eral court nom­i­na­tions go­ing for­ward.

Sen. Christo­pher A. Coons, Delaware Demo­crat, pointed to other picks he said were higher pri­or­i­ties for the Se­nate to tackle.

“I hope we will get to a

process of con­sid­er­ing nom­i­nees for the Justice Depart­ment, for the State Depart­ment, where in those case where we can quickly come to an agree­ment, we’ll process them so the govern­ment can func­tion,” said Mr. Coons. “And in those cases where there’s rea­son for sharp dis­agree­ment, we’ll con­tinue to stand firm against those who aren’t qual­i­fied to serve.”

Mr. Trump has an op­por­tu­nity to re­shape the fed­eral ju­di­ciary.

Cir­cuit courts need nom­i­nees for 19 va­can­cies, and district courts are wait­ing to fill more than 100 va­can­cies, but the White House has been slow to an­nounce names.

Part of the rea­son for the slow pace is that the Se­nate has been con­sumed with the fight over Justice Neil Gor­such. The justice was con­firmed this month — but only af­ter Democrats mounted a fil­i­buster, forc­ing Repub­li­cans to use the “nu­clear op­tion” short­cut to change the rules.

Use of the fil­i­buster won’t be an ob­sta­cle for the lower-court picks, ei­ther, be­cause Democrats used the nu­clear op­tion in 2013 to de­fang the pro­ce­dure for all non-Supreme Court nom­i­nees.

A com­mit­tee aide said Democrats will in­sist that the Se­nate re­spect the “blue slip” tra­di­tion, which gives se­na­tors a chance to ap­prove ju­di­cial picks from their home states. If both se­na­tors don’t re­turn their blue slips, nom­i­na­tions tra­di­tion­ally are scut­tled.

Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein of Cal­i­for­nia, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, has also sig­naled that she will ask the com­mit­tee to wait for eval­u­a­tions by the Amer­i­can Bar As­so­ci­a­tion be­fore nom­i­nees get con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has said it won’t wait for an ABA rating be­fore mak­ing its nom­i­na­tion, break­ing with the practice of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Pro­gres­sive groups, which pushed the nu­clear show­down over Justice Gor­such, say they still want Democrats to test Judge Thu­par.

“Hope­fully, the Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing to­mor­row will il­lu­mi­nate his views and what type of judge he will be on the 6th Cir­cuit,” said Dan Gold­berg, le­gal di­rec­tor for the pro­gres­sive Al­liance for Justice. “We in­tend, af­ter the hear­ing, to cer­tainly fur­ther ed­u­cate the full Se­nate on Judge Tha­par’s record.”

Mr. Gold­berg said Judge Thu­par was on the list of po­ten­tial nom­i­nees that Mr. Trump re­leased last year as a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. Democrats said the list was sus­pect be­cause it was crafted with help from con­ser­va­tive le­gal ad­vo­cates.

Mr. Gold­berg also said Judge Tha­par has is­sued trou­bling rul­ings, in­clud­ing op­pos­ing cam­paign ethics rules for ju­di­cial can­di­dates in Ken­tucky that would have lim­ited their con­tri­bu­tions in par­ti­san pol­i­tics.

Judge Tha­par was later re­versed in part by the 6th Cir­cuit — the court for which Mr. Trump has nom­i­nated him.

Mr. Gold­berg also said Judge Tha­par re­jected a fam­ily’s law­suit against a jail­house nurse who they claimed had acted in­dif­fer­ently to their fam­ily mem­ber’s med­i­cal needs. The fam­ily mem­ber died of diabetic ke­toaci­do­sis while in jail.

Con­ser­va­tive groups were skep­ti­cal of Democrats’ ap­petite for an­other bruis­ing fight over judges.

“It’s not Supreme Court stakes at this point, and the Democrats have to go in rec­og­niz­ing that Judge Tha­par is some­one who will eas­ily be con­firmed,” said Car­rie Sev­erino, chief coun­sel at the con­ser­va­tive Ju­di­cial Cri­sis Net­work.

She said Judge Tha­par is a “stel­lar nom­i­nee” and is par­tic­u­larly strong on safe­guard­ing con­sti­tu­tional lim­its for all branches of govern­ment — in­clud­ing the courts.

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