2 more federal judges are confirmed amid COVID-19 relief package negotiations

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Two more federal judges were confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Thursday, as lawmakers rush to reach a deal on COVID-19 relief and government funding packages.

In his push to change the makeup of the nation’s courts, President Donald Trump nominated Charles Edward Atchley Jr., assistant U.S. attorney for the District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Zachary Somers, former chief investigative counsel for Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. With their confirmation, Trump has put in place 234 federal judges.

Courthouse News Service has the report.

Atchley was confirmed in a 54-41 vote and will be seated on the bench of the Eastern District of Tennessee. In response to a Senate questionnaire, he denied being a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization that has played a role in Trump’s judicial nominations.

He wrote: “I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Federalist Society.”

Atchley was also asked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat in California, whether he saw any evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2002 and 2006 elections. During this time, he was the point person for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Tennessee on the Department of Justice’s Voter Integrity Initiative.

“No,” he said.

In response to other questions from Feinstein, Atchley said landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed rights to abortion, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which guaranteed rights to same-sex marriage, were settled law.

“Only the Supreme Court may overturn one of its prior decisions using factors that it considers appropriate in making that decision,” Atchley wrote. “As a district court nominee, it would be inappropriate for me to offer an opinion when this should occur. If confirmed, I will fully and faithfully apply all Supreme Court precedent.”

Somers was confirmed by the Senate in a 52-43 vote. He will serve on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims for a 15-year term.

He highlighted his legal experience in his responses to a Senate questionnaire, pointing out that he started his career as a law clerk on the Court of Federal Claims. He later worked as an associate at a law firm that focused on Court of Federal Claims litigation.

“I believe the experience I have gained on Capitol Hill will be invaluable if I am lucky enough to be confirmed, especially to this court in which trials are rare and without juries or a criminal docket,” Somers wrote. “I also believe I would bring an increasingly unique perspective to the bench having served in the legislative branch as studies indicate that prior legislative experience has been decreasing on the federal bench in recent years.”

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