Trump nominates 9 to federal court vacancies

  • Print.


Updated: Nine more nominees for federal judgeships were announced Tuesday by the White House.

The newest wave of nominees are:

• Mark Bennett, former attorney general of Hawaii, to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

• Andrew Oldham, general counsel for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

• Michael Scudder Jr., a partner at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom in Chicago, to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

• U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve of the Northern District of Illinois to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

• Minnesota State District Court Judge Nancy Brasel to the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

• Thomas Kleeh, a labor litigator with Steptoe & Johnson in West Virginia, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.

• Peter Phipps, a senior trial counsel in the federal programs branch of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

• Eric Tostrud, a full-time faculty member at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a practicing lawyer, to the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

• U.S. Magistrate Judge C.J. Williams of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, to a full district judgeship in the same court.

Gov. Abbott took to Twitter to praise the choice of Oldham, who has worked as his general counsel since the beginning of January.

“This is an excellent choice of a strict construction constitutionalist. I think he’s even better than Gorsuch,” Abbott tweeted, referencing the newest U.S. Supreme Court justice.

U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, both Democrats from Hawaii, praised the choice of Bennett, a Republican.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that Sen. Schatz said Bennett “has a long and distinguished career as a lawyer and public servant in Hawaii that makes him well-qualified to serve as a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Such bipartisan support is seen as a good omen for Bennett’s nomination.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin was consulted on the picks from his state. Sen. Durbin and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, both Democrats., praised the picks, according to Law360.com.

Judge St. Eve, a 7th Circuit nominee and originally appointed to the district court by President George W. Bush in 2002, reprimanded then-businessman Donald Trump for combative testimony during a 2013 trial over claims made by his company regarding two condos in Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago. The jury found for Trump against an 87-year-old plaintiff.

Before this current wave of nominations, there were 26 others awaiting confirmation in the Senate. All nominees will require a vote out of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and approval from the full senate, which requires 51 votes.

Even with four nominees receiving “not qualified” ratings from the ABA, President Trump saw 23 of his appointments become judges in his first 12 months in office, which included 13 appeals judges and Gorsuch.

However, USA Today notes a lack of racial diversity as 80 of Trump’s first 87 selections are white. The president has nominated five Asian-Americans, one African-American and one Latino.

Carrie Severino, chief counsel at the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, told USA Today that the quality of those selected matters most.

“President Trump isn’t looking for people to fit a quota. He’s looking for people with a principled judicial philosophy,” she says. “The fundamental question is making sure we have judges who are going to be faithful to the Constitution.”

Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, disagrees.

“It is most unfortunate,” she says. “It turns the clock back on years of work and effort that went into promoting judicial diversity.”

See also Trump’s judicial nominees are the least diverse in three decades

Adds new information on racial breakdown, quotes at 4:50 p.m.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.