This column by ACRU General Counsel Ken Klukowski was published May 8, 2017 by Breitbart.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump unveiled a slate of ten judicial nominees to the federal courts on Monday who are mainstream conservatives, taking the next step to fulfill his campaign promise after his successful appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
When it comes to judicial nominations, the president is best known for his home-run victory in his nomination and confirmation of Gorsuch. But even if Trump gets the expected opportunity to nominate two more justices during his first term, those three picks will be less than two percent of his judicial selections over the next four years.
Trump has already made one other judicial nomination: Judge Amul Thapar to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Thapar is currently a federal district judge (the trial court in the federal system) in Kentucky. But at this moment, there are 122 judicial vacancies in addition to the one Thapar will fill when he is confirmed.
On Monday, Trump nominated ten additional picks to fill many of those seats, five for the federal appeals courts and four for the federal district courts (in addition to one for a specialized court, the Court of Federal Claims).
Most of the public attention will go to the appellate nominees, because more than 99 percent of the time a decision from a federal appeals court is a final decision because the Supreme Court does not select it for review.
The president’s nominees to the appeals courts are:
- Justice Joan Larsen of the Michigan Supreme Court, for the Sixth Circuit
- Attorney John K. Bash, also for the Sixth Circuit
- Professor Amy Coney Barrett of Notre Dame Law School, for the Seventh Circuit
- Justice David Stras of the Minnesota Supreme Court, for the Eighth Circuit
- Former Alabama Solicitor General Kevin Newsom, for the Eleventh Circuit
Two of these five, Larsen and Stras, were on Trump’s List of 21 for the Supreme Court vacancy filled by Gorsuch. Most of them clerked for justices on the Supreme Court, and all have stellar records and are regarded as principled originalists who believe in interpreting the Constitution and other written laws according to their original public meaning.
Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, praised the list as “very impressive,” adding that these nominees “are natural prospects for federal judicial service at the Court of Appeals level.”
Carrie Severino, general counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network and a former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, agreed. President Trump “is taking the next step in carrying out his campaign promise by appointing highly qualified and principled judges to the lower federal courts,” Severino said. “The nominees have stellar qualifications and a record of courageous commitment to the rule of law that will make them excellent additions to the federal bench,” she added.
Ken Blackwell, a member of the American Civil Rights Union policy board who is also a former domestic policy advisor to Trump’s presidential transition team and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, gave his reaction, speaking exclusively with Breitbart News about the president’s selections.
“President Trump is showing a courageous commitment to picking principled conservatives for the federal bench,” Blackwell said. “There are millions of Americans who voted for Donald Trump because this was their number-one issue. President Trump is giving them one reason after another to celebrate!”
“The fate of many of the issues most dear to these millions of Americans are in the hands of the courts, more than Congress, the White House, or statehouses,” Blackwell added. “From religious liberty, to the Second Amendment, to voter integrity, to securing our borders and national security, the makeup of the federal bench will shape the destiny of our nation.”
“President Trump, and those whom he has chosen to serve in his administration, like Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are proving in spades that they understand this issue, and that it is a top priority for them,” Blackwell concluded.
These nominations for lifetime appointments now go the U.S. Senate for confirmation.