By Ben Marquis
One of the most underreported success stories of President Donald Trump’s tenure in office thus far has been the plethora of judicially conservative judges he has nominated and seen confirmed to fill vacancies on various U.S. circuit and district courts across the nation, as that has significantly shifted the judicial branch toward the right.
Fox News reported that Trump just nominated three more conservatives to fill vacancies on the liberal-dominated 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Long derided as the “Nutty Ninth,” the court oversees nine Western states, including California, and is one of the more influential courts in the country.
In naming those nominees, though, Trump broke with tradition and snubbed the two Democrat senators from California — Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris — which has them hopping mad.
As a traditional act of courtesy, presidents typically work closely with the senators of the home state of a judicial nominee, seeking their opinion and approval in what are known as “blue slips” that signal a senator’s support for the nominee. With regard to these three picks for the 9th Circuit, Trump bypassed that step and nominated them even as Feinstein and Harris had signaled their disapproval.
The decision to exclude Feinstein and Harris from the decision-making on the nominees who will reside on the court that oversees California likely came following the absolute debacle that was the confirmation process of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Feinstein was criticized for withholding a letter about a sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh for months, and Harris was incredibly outspoken in her opposition to the nominee.
The Sacramento Bee reported that the White House initially attempted to negotiate with both Feinstein and Harris on the 9th Circuit’s vacancies, but those talks reached an impasse earlier during the summer and collapsed.
The three conservative nominees named by Trump are Southern California attorneys Daniel Collins and Kenneth Lee and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Bumatay. All three are reported to be members of the conservative Federalist Society and have worked for Republican administrations. The three men are in their 40s and 50s, relatively young by lifetime judicial appointment standards, meaning they’ll sit on the influential court for decades if confirmed.
But Trump never sought a supportive “blue slip” from Feinstein or Harris for those three nominees, and both senators released statements that made their unhappiness with the situation abundantly clear.
Feinstein said in a statement, “Last night the White House moved forward without consulting me, picking controversial candidates from its initial list and another individual with no judicial experience who had not previously been suggested.”
The decision to move forward on 9th Circuit nominees without consultation or responding to my acceptance of the White House’s offer reflects President Trump’s desire to stack the court. I expect my blue slips to be honored as I was acting in good faith. https://t.co/7EYWmi7V0k
— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) October 11, 2018
Her complaint was echoed by Harris’ spokeswoman, Lily Adams, who said in a statement, “Instead of working with our office to identify consensus nominees for the 9th Circuit, the White House continues to try to pack the courts with partisan judges who will blindly support the President’s agenda, instead of acting as an independent check on this Administration.”
As if prior Democrat presidents haven’t attempted to “pack the courts with partisan judges” who will rule in favor of the leftist agenda — but that is another story.
Fox News noted that the snub of Feinstein and Harris coincided with another judicial success story for Trump that was achieved this week. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reached a deal with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that would see 15 more conservative jurists immediately confirmed to various vacant circuit and district court seats.
In exchange for the confirmation of those judges, McConnell would allow the Senate to go into recess until after the midterm elections, which in turn would release vulnerable Democrat senators facing tough re-election battles to finally hit the campaign trail. It had been rumored that Grassley and McConnell wanted to keep the Senate in session until some 49 outstanding nominations were voted on, a lengthy process that would have kept all senators tethered closely to Washington.
Presuming the three nominees Trump named for the 9th Circuit are confirmed, it won’t completely shift the liberal court to the conservative side. It would, however, close the partisan gap to 16 liberals and 13 conservatives, making that court far more ideologically balanced than it has been.
This move by Trump to make the liberal-dominated 9th Circuit Court more ideologically balanced is a rather significant win for him, and the fact that he was able to snub Feinstein and Harris in the process — a well-deserved snub, in light of their staunchly obstructionist resistance — is simply some tasty icing on the cake.