Nominee for 10th Circuit Promises to Be Impartial, ‘Follow the Law’

Allison Eid at her swearing in as a justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. (Linda McConnell, Associated Press)

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump’s choice to replace Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch on the 10th Circuit promised the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that if confirmed to the bench, she would remain impartial and “follow the law where it takes me.”

“You take an oath to be impartial, you have to be impartial,” Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. “That is a requirement.”

Trump nominated Eid to the 10th Circuit seat Gorsuch once held in June. Eid was also on Trump’s short list of potential Supreme Court nominees, a list that was compiled by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.

The society, a conservative legal advocacy group, lists Eid as an expert on its website.

The Federalist Society has taken on an increased role in judicial nominations during the Trump administration, and while Democrats did not question Eid about her role in the group at the hearing, such prodding usually comes in the written questions lawmakers submit to nominees after their hearings.

Eid previously served as Colorado’s solicitor general and worked at the firm Arnold and Porter after clerking for Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. She later worked as a professor at the Colorado School of Law, where she taught constitutional law courses.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Eid faced many criticisms similar to those that Democrats levied against Gorsuch during his nomination process in March. Democrats brought up criminal cases where Eid wrote opinions that endorsed expanded police search powers, including one where Eid wrote a dissent saying drugs found on a suspect who confessed a crime to officers who were beating him should be admitted into at trial.

Though Eid joined the majority in agreeing the suspect’s confession should be suppressed, she told the committee on Wednesday her opinion that the drugs did not have to be barred from appearing at trial was based on procedural objections.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., pressed Eid on another case involving a group of women who were thrown out of a hotel for disorderly conduct after a night of drinking. The women eventually drove home, despite the driver being drunk, and got into a car accident that left one of the women with serious brain injuries.

The family of the woman who suffered brain injuries brought a lawsuit against the hotel, claiming it was negligent in throwing the women out of the building despite their obvious intoxication.

Eid dissented from her fellow judges on the Colorado Supreme Court, saying the hotel was entitled to summary judgment in the case because the women could have taken a taxi home instead of driving.

The case resembled a dissent Gorsuch wrote arguing a trucking company was not wrong to fire a trucker who abandoned his trailer to escape freezing temperatures, which Durbin and other Democrats repeatedly mentioned during Gorsuch’s hearings.

Though Durbin seemed incredulous about Eid’s finding, Eid said he left out the “critical fact” that she reached her conclusion because video evidence showed the women walked past a line of taxis before deciding to drive home.

Following the tradition of other federal court nominees, Eid was careful in answering questions about her judicial philosophy and opinions on specific cases or issues, instead repeating she would consistently follow the law if approved to the bench.

This frustrated Democrats and even one Republican, who scoffed at the idea that political opinions do not seep into judicial appointments and decisions.

“I think there’s more to this than just these bland statements about, ‘I’m going to apply the law to the facts and that’s the end of it,'” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said before questioning Eid.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., was similarly bothered when Eid would not give him a direct answer about what constitutes a fundamental right. Eid said she would follow the precedent of the Supreme Court in determining such a case, and when Kennedy asked her to consider how she would rule if the case was one of first impression, she said such cases are rare.

“Part of what our job is to try to understand what you stand for and I get disappointed when folks don’t answer the questions, I do,” Kennedy told Eid during the hearing.

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