Ninth Circuit Judge Confirmed With Little Pushback From Democrats

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate on Wednesday confirmed an Oregon state court judge to a seat on the Ninth Circuit, while also setting up a vote that will likely make a quarter of all federal appeals court judges President Donald Trump’s appointees.

The James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse in San Francisco, home of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. (AP Photo/Ernest McGray)

Judge Danielle Hunsaker currently serves as the presiding judge on the Washington County Circuit Court in Oregon and has held a seat on the court since 2017, when she was appointed by Oregon Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat. Before taking the bench, Hunsaker worked at the Portland firms Larkins Vacura Kayser and Stoel Rives.

She was one of four names Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley sent to the White House in August as possible choices for the Ninth Circuit vacancy, all of whom were recommended by a bipartisan judicial selection committee the Democratic senators and Republican Congressman Greg Walden convened to fill the seat.

Hunsaker described herself as an originalist at her nomination hearing in September and told senators the judicial philosophy that many Trump nominees have endorsed is “consistent with separation of powers established in the Constitution and the judiciary’s role to say what the law is.”

A clerk for Ninth Circuit Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan whose seat Hunsaker will now take, she split Oregon’s delegation in her confirmation vote on Wednesday.

Merkley had announced last week that after meeting with Hunsaker that while he applauded her service on the state court, he could not support her elevation to the Ninth Circuit because “a lifetime appointment to these critically important circuit court positions should be reserved for individuals with more extensive experience to draw upon.”

Wyden, however, voted for Hunsaker on Wednesday afternoon, joining 22 other Democrats in supporting her confirmation. Hunsaker earned confirmation with 73-17 vote. Of the eight Trump appointees on the Ninth Circuit, including Hunsaker, three have received more than 70 votes, while the other five received no more than 53.

The Senate also voted overwhelmingly to advance the nomination of William Nardini on Wednesday, a Connecticut federal prosecutor who is up for a seat on the Second Circuit. The 87-3 vote means Nardini is likely to be confirmed on Thursday.

If Nardini is indeed confirmed, he will be the 45th Trump nominee confirmed to a federal circuit court, giving Trump a quarter of all such appointments in the country.

Trump hailed his record on remaking the courts in a speech at the White House Wednesday, comparing his impact on the judiciary favorably to George Washington’s.

“I say often, percentage wise you’ll never beat one man, and we all know who that is – George Washington – 100%,” Trump said. “But in terms of, I’d like to say quality and quantity, we are going to be, I think, just about number one by the time we finish.”

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