Trump Moves to Pack More Conservatives Onto Federal Courts

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump on Monday will name 10 conservative judges to fill federal court vacancies.

Two of the judges, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras, were on a shortlist of 21 potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees that Trump complied during his presidential campaign. But both lost out to the recently confirmed Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Larsen will be nominated to fill an opening on the Sixth Circuit; Stras will fill an opening on the Eighth Circuit.

The president’s other judicial nominees are:

  • Amy Coney Barrett, of Indiana, to serve as a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit;
  • John K. Bush, of Kentucky, to serve as a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit;
  • Kevin C. Newsom, of Alabama, to serve as a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit;
  • David C. Nye, of Idaho, to serve as a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho;
  • Scott L. Palk, of Oklahoma, to serve as a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma;
  • Damien M. Schiff, of California, to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims;
  • Dabney L. Friedrich, of Washington, D.C., to serve as a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia;
  • Terry F. Moorer, of Alabama, to serve as a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said “These 10 individuals that the president has chosen were chosen for their deep knowledge of the law and their commitment to upholding Constitutional principles.”

Larsen, 48, worked in the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration and also was a professor at the University of Michigan School of Law starting in 1998. A former clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Larsen was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court in 2015, and won re-election to the seat in November with more than 57 percent of the vote.

Listed as an expert at the conservative Federalist Society, Larsen’s description of her legal philosophy on her campaign site is right in line with those common among conservative jurists.

“My judicial philosophy is simple: judges should interpret the laws according to what they say, not according to what the judges wish they would say,” a statement on her website says. “Judges are supposed to interpret the laws; they are not supposed to make them.”

The 42-year-old Stras boasts similar conservative bona fides, having clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas before entering private practice and later joining the University Minnesota Law School. He was appointed to the court in 2010 and was re-elected in 2012.

Conservatives praised the appointments after The New York Times first reported them on Monday.

“President Trump is building on the success of his nomination of Justice Gorsuch with an outstanding new slate of nominees for the lower federal courts,” Carrie Severino, chief counsel with the Judicial Crisis Network, said in a statement. “The nominees have stellar qualifications and a record of courageous commitment to the rule of law that will make them excellent additions to the federal bench. When it comes to fulfilling his campaign promise to appoint strong, principled judges, Trump is knocking it out of the park.”

The White House did not immediately make available the full list of judges Trump picked to serve on federal courts. All would have to go through the Senate confirmation process before taking their seats.

While the confirmation process for lower court judges has typically been less rigorous than for Supreme Court nominees – Gorsuch, whom Republicans had to change the rules to get on the Supreme Court, was unanimously approved for his spot on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals — Democrats could raise more of a fight with Trump in the White House.

“Instead of allowing these groups to single-handedly pick judges that will tilt the lower courts to the hard right for a generation, the president should work with members of both parties to pick judges from within the judicial mainstream who will interpret the law rather than make it,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday.

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