WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate on Wednesday confirmed a Louisiana federal judge to a seat on the Fifth Circuit, seating a fourth Trump nominee on the federal appeals court.
Judge Kurt Engelhardt has served on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana since 2001, having previously spent a decade at the Metairie, La., firm Hailey, McNamara, Hall, Larmann & Papale.
During his nomination process, Engelhardt faced questions about several rulings he handed down in favor of employers in sexual harassment lawsuits. He was still able to earn a substantial bipartisan majority on Wednesday afternoon, clearing the Senate 62-34.
In one case, Engelhardt ruled in favor of a company in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by a woman fired two weeks after she gave birth. Though the woman was on doctor’s orders to remain on bed rest, the company said she was fired because she could not come to work. Engelhardt granted summary judgment to the company, saying her pregnancy “does not dispense with the general requirement that employees must show up for work.”
Facing questions about the case submitted in writing after his nomination hearing, Engelhardt told senators he applied binding Fifth Circuit precedent when making the decision.
“A district judge’s mandate is to judge each case based on the evidence presented and in accordance with controlling legal principles established by Congress and judicial precedent including controlling precedent of the Supreme Court and the applicable circuit court,” Engelhardt wrote.
Civil rights groups and Democrats also raised question about Engelhardt’s decision reversing the convictions of New Orleans police officers who were sentenced to prison after killing two unarmed black people on the Danziger Bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Engelhardt tossed the convictions in 2013 after blog posts about the case surfaced that federal prosecutors anonymously authored.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights noted that while Engelhardt threw out the police officers’ convictions, he granted summary judgment to a district attorney’s office accused of Brady violations.
“In short, in the Truvia case involving African-American plaintiffs who sought a measure of justice after their wrongful convictions, Jude Engelhardt failed to credit a long and ignominious record of constitutional violations by the DA’s office,” Leadership Conference Chief Counsel Mike Zubrensky wrote to the Judiciary Committee. “But in the Danziger Bridge case, when the defendants were police officers charged with police brutality, Judge Engelhardt readily found prosecutorial misconduct and constitutional violations for some online comments.”
A member of the conservative Federalist Society, Engelhardt joins Don Willett, James Ho and Kyle Duncan as Trump nominees on the Fifth Circuit.