Senate Confirms Judges for Federal Bench in Oklahoma, Colorado

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate on Tuesday confirmed nominees to federal district courts in Oklahoma and Colorado, including one who faced allegations of conflicts of interest and cozy relationships with lobbyists during his time as Oklahoma’s solicitor general. 

Just 38 years old, Patrick Wyrick currently serves on the Oklahoma Supreme Court and will now take a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Included on the list of President Donald Trump’s potential Supreme Court nominees and a member of the conservative Federalist Society, he cleared the Senate in a 53-47 vote on Tuesday afternoon.

Before taking the state bench, he served as Oklahoma’s solicitor general from 2011 to 2017, putting him in the office during a scandal in which then-Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt took a draft letter from an Oklahoma energy company, put it on state letterhead and sent it to the EPA with limited changes.

When senators asked about the scandal during his confirmation process, Wyrick said he did not recall the email that included the letter, but that it was his standard practice at the time to pass emails like that to someone at the attorney general’s office for more evaluation.

In addition to these concerns, environmental advocacy group Earthjustice said in a letter to lawmakers last week that Wyrick did not immediately disclose his wife’s ownership of a physical therapy company or recuse himself in a challenge to provisions in the Affordable Care Act while he was working as solicitor general that could have impacted the company’s finances.

In response to questions submitted in writing after his nomination hearing, Wyrick told senators he was not involved in the business “other than my attempts to be a supportive spouse.” But as noted by Earthjustice, Wyrick is listed as the registered agent for the company on the Oklahoma secretary of state’s website.

Wyrick amended his filings with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission in May 2017 to reflect his wife’s financial interest in the company. Registered agents in Oklahoma accept legal mail and service of process for a company, but do not need to have a financial stake in the business, according to the secretary of state’s office.

In addition to Wyrick, the Senate also confirmed Daniel Domenico to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on Tuesday. Domenico worked as Colorado solicitor general from 2006 to 2015 and now works at the law firm Kittredge in Golden, Colorado.

Former counsel to South Dakota Republican U.S. Senator John Thune’s campaign committee, Domenico faced questions from Democrats about legal positions he advanced in court, including in litigation defending the state’s ban on gay marriage and in a challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.

In response to questions submitted in writing after his nomination hearing, Domenico said the positions he took in court were meant to defend Colorado’s interests, not advance his own personal beliefs on a given legal issue.

“As solicitor general, my main duty was to defend Colorado’s laws, government agencies and its people and their representatives,” Domenico wrote. “In doing so, I presented whichever arguments I believed would best carry out that duty. Sometimes those arguments included approaches that might be termed ‘originalist.’ But they often adopted a different approach. My own opinion was rarely, if ever relevant.”

Domenico clerked for 10th Circuit Judge Timothy Tymkovich, who authored that court’s opinion finding Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate violated Hobby Lobby’s rights.  

Domenico cleared the Senate 57-42 on Tuesday afternoon.

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