Judicial Nominees to Watch

From our 6 January 2018 news round-up, here’s an incomplete list of Trump judicial nominees to watch out for.


Foreign service nominees and 270 other nominees, including 70 judicial nominees, were sent back to the President to renominate at the opening of the 116th Congress. Democrats refused to cross the aisle to provide bipartisan support, and Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s had vowed to block judicial nominations until the Senate voted on a law protecting special counsel Robert Mueller, which didn’t happen.

Flake’s term ended this week after he decided not to run again, saying that “our politics is not healthy“; he has since warned Republicans of the dangers of “fear and conspiracy theories” within the party.

The nominees will be re-considered by the new Senate under Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the new Judiciary Committee Chair. Republicans now have 53 votes in the Senate (plus Pence’s tie-breaking vote, if needed) so protests would need to be vigorous to prevent the worst nominations from being approved. Trump may decide not to re-nominate some of the 2018 nominees.

Even though leaving federal positions open is generally bad for government, it’d be better to leave them open than fill them with these people, since these nominees aren’t merely the conservative jurists you’d expect of any Republican president, but would be particularly bad for the country.

Of note, McConnell restricted President Obama to 2 circuit court and 22 district court nominations in his last two years in office—creating Trump’s unusually high number of opportunities for nominations. The 115th Congress confirmed 85 judges.

Watch out for:

Patrick J. Bumatay, Daniel P. Collins, and Kenneth Kiyul Lee

Three nominees to the Ninth Circuit, Patrick J. Bumatay, Daniel P. Collins, and Kenneth Kiyul Lee. All are members of the ultra-conservative Federalist Society, which largely constructed Trump’s list of judicial nominees. Bumatay is a prosecutor who has never served as a judge. He’s gay, and a member of the Tom Homann LGBT Law Association, which concerns some social conservatives but not the Log Cabin Republicans, who endorse him. Collins has defended companies like Shell from allegations of infrastructure damage from climate change. Lee is anti-affirmative action and in favor of denying felons voting rights, and failed to disclose controversial writings to judicial selection committees. Together, they represent an effort by Trump to move the 9th Circuit sharply to the right, despite the objections of their homestate senators, another norm the Trump administration is breaking.

Roy K. Altman

Roy K. Altman, who wrote this op ed in favor of allowing U.S. border agents to search travelers’ personal computers “at random and indiscriminately.”

Stephen Clark

Stephen Clark, whose work with Lawyers for Life promotes lawyers using legal strategies to obstruct providers he’s called “abortionists”.

Thomas Farr

Thomas Farr, who “stands out for his decades-long crusade to disenfranchise African Americans” [NAACP]—he was the main author of a voter disenfranchisement law struck down by a federal appeals court for “target[ing] African Americans with almost surgical precision”—and whose 2018 nomination was prevented by the only African-American Republican Senator, Tim Scott (R-SC).

Eric Murphy

Eric Murphy, who argued against marriage equality and defended Ohio’s voter purge.

Ryan Nelson

Ryan Nelson, whose nomination as an Interior Department solicitor was held up by Democrats, has been general counsel for a decade at multi-level marketing (and historically anti-LGBT) “wellness” company Maleleuca, “which has faced investigation from state regulators and accusations of being a pyramid scheme.” He supports Trump’s fossil-fuel-heavy America First Energy Plan and has waffled on whether or not climate change is caused by human activity.

Chad A. Readler

Chad A. Readler, who has argued in favor of the citizenship census question, argued that protections for pre-existing conditions are unconstitutional, worked to undermine voting rights (pdf), defended the transgender military ban (pdf), and a host of other issues.

Allison Jones Rushing

Allison Jones Rushing is being criticized by Equality North Carolina, Free State Legal of Maryland, and Lambda Legal for ties to anti-gay Alliance Defending Freedom, where she interned, and for her record, which includes arguing that same-sex couples are not guaranteed to equal liberty by the constitution. Democrats also objected to her inexperience: the American Bar Association says federal bench nominees should have at least 12 years’ experience, but Rushing only has 8.

Wendy Vitter

Wendy Vitter, wife of former Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who promoted a theory that women who take birth control are more likely to be abused and otherwise promotes fake science as fact.