Trump Names Picks for Second Circuit, Five Other Courts

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced plans to nominate six new candidates for seats on federal courts, including a new pick for the Second Circuit.

The Second Circuit’s Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse at 40 Centre Street in New York City. (Photo via Wikipedia Commons)

Trump looked inside the White House to fill a vacancy on the Manhattan-based Second Circuit, picking special assistant to the president and senior associate counsel Steven Menashi. Before entering the White House last October, Menashi was the acting general counsel at the Department of Education and before that worked as a law professor at George Mason University, focusing on administrative law and civil procedure.

A former clerk to Justice Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court and to U.S. Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg on the D.C. Circuit, Menashi also spent time as a partner at the New York offices of Kirkland & Ellis.

Continuing a theme of Trump nominees skeptical of administrative agency power, Menashi penned a paper in the New York University Journal of Law and Liberty with Ginsburg in 2016 that argued courts have been too deferential to administrative agencies in legal disputes over regulations.

The paper decried a core doctrine of administrative law known as Chevron deference as a “wholesale transfer of legal interpretation from courts to agencies” and argued it violates the Administrative Procedure Act. Chevron establishes a test for when courts defer to agencies’ interpretations of ambiguous statutes.  

“The current doctrine directly conflicts with the APA, which provides that courts are to decide questions of law,” Menashi and Ginsburg wrote. “Subverting the purpose of the APA, this deferential judicial posture creates a systematic bias in favor of the government and against the citizen.”

If confirmed, Menashi would be Trump’s fourth nominee on the Second Circuit.

Neither Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., nor Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., responded to requests for comment on Menashi’s nomination.

In addition to Menashi, Trump also announced five nominations to federal district courts across the country.

This includes Sarah Pitlyk, who is nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Pitlyk currently works as special counsel at the Thomas More Society, a law firm that focuses on anti-abortion and religious liberty litigation.

Pitlyk helped challenge St. Louis’ so-called “abortion sanctuary” ordinance, which prohibited discrimination against people based on if they have had an abortion. A religious nonprofit, a Catholic businessman and schools run by the Archdiocese of St. Louis filed suit challenging the order, saying it would force them to violate their religious convictions and the missions of their organizations.

A federal judge in September partially blocked the ordinance, largely siding with the groups Pitlyk represented.

Pitlyk has also represented David Daleiden, the founder of the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress who released a series of undercover videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of fetal tissue.

In addition to criminal charges in California, Daleiden has also faced civil lawsuits from Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation, which say the videos were deceptively edited. The Ninth Circuit in June upheld a contempt fine against Daleiden.

A former clerk for then-D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Pitlyk was vocal in defending the Trump appointee as he faced allegations of sexual misconduct during his nomination last year to the Supreme Court.

Two of Trump’s newest nominees have experience as federal prosecutors. Karen Marston, who is nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, currently heads the narcotics and organized crime section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Marston previously served as a prosecutor in North Carolina.

Currently a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina nominee Richard Myers previously served as a prosecutor in North Carolina and California.

Myers will take the place of Thomas Farr, whom Trump nominated twice to fill the seat. Farr’s nomination sank after South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, said he would not vote for him due to his record on voting rights and his involvement in a political campaign that sent out mailers a Justice Department memo called an attempt to intimidate African-American voters.

Trump also nominated Jodi Dishman, a shareholder at the Oklahoma City firm McAfee & Taft, to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Dishman focuses on complex business and insurance litigation at the firm and serves as the president of the Oklahoma City chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

The final nominee Trump announced on Wednesday was Raag Singhal, who currently serves as a circuit court judge on Florida’s 17th Judicial Circuit. Up for a spot on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Singhal has spent time as both a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney in the state.

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