Judiciary Panel Approves Five for the Federal Bench

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate Judiciary Committee approved five nominees Thursday to federal district courts across the country, but Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., continued to block a vote on nominees for the Third and 11th circuits as a protest against a number of White House policies.

The committee was scheduled to consider two circuit court nominees alongside the federal district court picks, but did not vote on either 11th Circuit nominee Justice Britt Grant or Third Circuit nominee David Porter due to continued opposition from Flake.

A member of the Judiciary Committee, Flake was initially quiet on his opposition to Grant, but publicly confirmed on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday his objection to Trump’s nominees concerned the administration’s policy on tariffs, of which he has been critical.

“I do think that unless we can actually exercise something other than just approving the president’s executive calendar, his nominees, judges, that we have no reason to be there,” Flake said on the show. “So I think myself and a number of senators, at least a few of us, will stand up and say let’s not move any more judges until we get a vote, for example, on tariffs.”

Senator Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the committee, has downplayed concerns about Flake’s opposition, noting there are plenty of nominees the committee has already approved that are prepared for a vote before the full Senate.

Flake has not applied his policy to nominees for federal district courts, however, as the committee was able to approve the nominations of five of Trump’s picks on Thursday.

U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama nominee Andrew Brasher faced opposition from Democrats over positions he argued in court as Alabama solicitor general.

Brasher represented the state in cases touching on such controversial issues as gay marriage and gun control, but told the committee at his nomination hearing earlier this month that he was simply doing his job as a lawyer for the state and that his job would change if confirmed to the bench.

“I think it’s my role, ethically, as an advocate for my client to vigorously defend my client’s interests,” Brasher said at his hearing. “I’ve done that for the state and I did it as well when I was in private practice handling court-appointed criminal defendant cases.”

Brasher has worked for the state since 2011, first as deputy solicitor general before becoming solicitor general in 2014.  A member of the Federalist Society, Brasher worked as an associate at the firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings before joining government and clerked for Judge William Pryor Jr. on the 11th Circuit.

He cleared the Judiciary Committee 11-10.

The committee unanimously approved U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana nominee James Hanlon. A partner at the Indianapolis firm Faegre Baker Daniels since 2006, Hanlon previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Indianapolis.

Approving another nominee to an Indiana court, the committee narrowly signed off on Holly Brady, a longtime private practice attorney in Fort Wayne, Ind. Up for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Brady started as an associate at the firm Barnes & Thornburg in 1998, moving to the firm Theisen Bowers & Brady in 2002 and then to Haller & Colvin in 2007.

Brady specializes in employment law, representing companies in employment discrimination and National Labor Relations Board matters.

The committee approved her nomination 11-10 Thursday.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas nominee David Morales faced similar opposition on Thursday, coming out of the committee in an 11-10 vote. Morales is the latest veteran of the Texas attorney general’s office to receive committee approval, having worked at the office from 1994 to 2011.

Morales started as a law clerk in the office, quickly becoming an assistant attorney general and eventually rising to become deputy first assistant attorney general. He later took a job as general counsel to the governor in 2011. After leaving the governor’s office in 2014, Morales took over as deputy general counsel to the University of Texas System Board of Regents.

In 2016 he became a partner at the firm Kelly Hart & Hallman, an Austin, Texas firm at which he still works.

Finally, the committee unanimously approved the nomination of Justice Lance Walker, who is up for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine. Walker has served on the Maine Superior Court since 2015, having previously spent time on the Maine District Court.

Walker spent more than a decade at the Portland, Maine firm Norman Hanson & DeTroy from 2001 to 2014, first as an associate before becoming a member in 2007.

All of the nominees the committee approved on Thursday must still receive a vote before the full Senate before being able to take their positions.

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