Saturday, February 4, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judiciary Snapshot: Trump Nominees Confirmed May 1-3

In this weekly series, Courthouse News details the progress of President Donald Trump's judicial nominees in the Senate. Five won confirmation this week, all to U.S. district courts.

This is a weekly series on the progress of President Donald Trump's judicial nominees in the Senate.

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Senate confirmed five of President Donald Trump's judicial nominees this week, all to U.S. district courts.

Campbell Barker, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas

Barker is the latest veteran of the Texas Attorney General's Office to take the federal bench during the Trump administration, having served as the state's deputy solicitor general since 2015. Barker also spent time as a trial attorney at the Justice Department and worked in private practice at the Houston firm Yetter Coleman from 2011 to 2015.

Confirmed with a 51-47 vote on Wednesday, most of the opposition to Barker traces back to his time in state government, where he advocated conservative legal positions in court. Of particular concern to Democrats who opposed his nomination were legal briefs by Barker in which he supported a Texas voter ID law, a baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, and the rescission during the Trump administration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, otherwise known as DACA, the Obama-era program that protected qualifying young immigrants from deportation. 

Barker also represented Texas in a Supreme Court fight over a state law that put strict conditions on abortion clinics, requiring them to meet the standards for outpatient surgery centers and to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. The Supreme Court struck down the law as too burdensome.

Like other Trump nominees grilled over their litigation positions, Barker told senators the arguments he made in court briefs were not his personal opinions, but the position of his client, in this case the state of Texas.

"Because attorneys owe a duty of loyalty to their clients, it would be unfitting for me to state personal views regarding my clients' litigation positions," Barker wrote in response to questions submitted after his nomination hearing. "The positions advocated in that brief were the positions of my clients, as opposed to my personal views."  

Democrats did not accept Barker's explanation, however, maintaining their concerns about his record on abortion, voting rights and immigration.

"There is no good reason why we should be confirming these judges with these troubling records on matters of critical importance to many Americans," Senator Bob Casey, D-Pa., said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "There is no shortage of qualified, mainstream attorneys or judges, state court judges and other judges across the country."

Andrew Brasher, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama 

Brasher comes to the bench with a record similar to that of Barker, having served as Alabama solicitor general since 2014 and as the state's deputy solicitor general for the three years before that. Brasher also worked at the Birmingham, Ala., firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings and clerked for 11th Circuit Judge William Pryor.

While in state government, Brasher filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Alabama in a Supreme Court fight that ended with a ruling against a portion of the Voting Rights Act. He also defended Alabama's legislative map at the Supreme Court against claims that it was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

Before the 11th Circuit meanwhile Brasher is involved in defending an Alabama abortion law that would change the judicial procedures available to minors who want to have an abortion without parental consent. The change would allow a judge to appoint a guardian to advance the interests of the unborn and to hear testimony from third-party witnesses. 

Brasher won confirmation 52-47 on Wednesday.

"Andrew Brasher is an outstanding choice to serve as a district judge for the Middle District of Alabama," Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in a statement. "His judicial temperament and vast legal experience make him well-suited to assume this new role. I congratulate him on this honor and am confident that his integrity and commitment to the rule of law will further contribute to the high standard of our nation's judicial system."


Rodolfo Ruiz, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Ruiz had been a judge on the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida and holds the distinction of being Trump's 100th judge confirmed to the federal bench. Before taking the state bench in 2012 as a county court judge, Ruiz worked as a federal prosecutor in Miami and as an associate at the Miami firm White & Case.

As a state court judge, Ruiz has not weighed in on many contentious federal issues, and criminal cases accounted for many of the 10 most significant cases he provided to the Judiciary Committee.

A member of the conservative Federalist Society, Ruiz did face a few questions from Democrats on prisoner-rights cases he handled as a prosecutor. In one case, Ruiz sought to dismiss a lawsuit brought by an HIV-positive inmate who said the prison did not give him medication for his disease for the first seven months he was in prison.

The Senate confirmed Ruiz 90-8 on Thursday.

Raul Arias-Marxuach, U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico 

Arias-Marxuach was one of the least controversial judicial nominees to come up during the Trump administration, earning confirmation with a 95-3 vote.

A native of Puerto Rico and graduate of both Harvard Law School and the University of Puerto Rico School of Law, Arias-Marxuach has spent his entire legal career on the island. He began in 1994 as an associate at the firm Fiddler Gonzalez & Rodriguez, before moving in 1995 to the firm McConnell Valdes, where he became a partner in 1999.

He told the Senate Judiciary Committee that, when he first entered private practice, he spent much of his time working on issues of maritime law, but that his practice has since expanded to focus on more types of civil litigation, from contracts to patents and personal injury suits.

Joshua Wolson, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

The final judge the Senate confirmed this week, Wolson took his seat after a 65-33 on Thursday afternoon.

Wolson works as a partner at the Philadelphia firm Dilworth Paxson, having previously spent time at the Washington, D.C., firm Covington & Burling. While at Covington & Burling, Wolson primarily worked on antitrust, contract  and intellectual property litigation. He told the Judiciary Committee his practice "broadened" after he moved to Philadelphia and that he now works on issues from intellectual property to civil rights and antitrust.  

Wolson faced questions about a 2009 tweet in which he sent a link to "The Third Jihad: Radical Islam's Vision for America," a controversial documentary-style video that claims Muslims are attempting to infiltrate western governments. In the tweet, Wolson said "everyone should see this film. Very important."

Wolson told the Judiciary Committee he urged people to watch the movie after he saw articles about it. He said he thought people should watch the film for themselves instead of just reading news accounts of its contents.  

"I did not intend to endorse the film when I sent the tweet and I do not endorse the film now," Wolson wrote in response to questions submitted in writing after his nomination hearing. "I only intended to encourage people to view the film for themselves and make up their own minds about it.”

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.