Trump Nominates Deputy Counsel to Fill DC Circuit Seat

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump on Thursday nominated his deputy counsel to fill a vacant seat on the D.C. Circuit Court, one of 16 judicial nominees the president sent to the Senate for consideration.

Greg Katsas has served as deputy counsel to the president since March, having worked in the Justice Department in various roles from 2001 to 2009. Katsas clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and served on the Advisory Committee for Appellate Rules from 2013 to this year.

While at the Justice Department, Katsas oversaw cases involving the legality of holding people at Guantanamo Bay, as well as other national security and civil liberties challenges, according to his profile on the conservative Federalist Society’s website, which lists him as an expert.

The Federalist Society is a collection of conservatives and libertarians who want to reform the legal system to follow a strict, originalist interpretation of the Constitution, particularly in the realms of limited government, individual liberties and traditional values.

Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that the group’s goal is to “fill the federal courts with scores of judges who are committed to the narrow interpretation of the Constitution that they believe the founders intended.” The group is also the subject of the book “The Federalist Society: How Conservatives Took the Law Back From Liberals,” by Michael Avery and Danielle McLaughlin.

Katsas was given the Justice Department’s highest award in 2009, just before he returned to his job as a partner at the Washington D.C. law firm Jones Day, according to the profile.

If confirmed, Katsas would replace U.S. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a President George W. Bush nominee who retired at the end of August.

Katsas’ nomination drew immediate praise from conservative advocates, who said his lengthy experience arguing before appellate courts has prepared him for a spot on one of the nation’s most active circuit courts.

“President Trump continues to keep his promise to the American people to appoint judges who will interpret our Constitution as it was originally understood by nominating Greg Katsas to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals,” Jenny Beth Martin, the president and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, said in a statement on a website supporting Katsas’ nomination. “Mr. Katsas is exceptionally well qualified to serve on the federal bench.”

Conservative activists have already gotten behind Katsas’ nomination. The Judicial Crisis Network published, which highlights his credentials and includes statements from legal experts and advocates supporting his nomination, at nearly the same time as the White House sent out a press release announcing the pick.

Judicial Crisis Network advocates for conservative judicial nominees and last month announced a $500,000 ad campaign against “Democratic efforts to block well qualified judicial nominees from filling a growing number of federal court vacancies.”

Katsas is part of Trump’s “seventh wave” of judicial nominees, which includes choices to fill spots on three federal circuit courts and 13 seats on district courts across the country.

In addition to Katsas, Trump also nominated Judge Elizabeth Branch for a seat on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Before being appointed to a seat on the Georgia Court of Appeals in 2012, Branch worked at the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Homeland Security during President George W. Bush’s second term in office, according to a White House press release.

Ryan Bounds, a federal prosecutor in Oregon who Trump tapped to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, also spent time in the Bush administration, serving as a special assistant to the president on domestic policy. Bounds also worked at the Office of Legal Policy in the Justice Department, where he worked on intellectual property, immigration and civil justice reform issues, according to a letter Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., sent Trump in January praising Bounds.

Walden said Bounds had a “key role” in the confirmation process of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and helped implement the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down Washington D.C.’s ban on handguns.

“Ryan Bounds is uniquely qualified for this judgeship,” Walden wrote in the Jan. 25 letter. “His commitment to the rule of law, liberty and self-government are, in my mind, beyond question. He comes with an unsurpassed record despite his relative youth and his deep roots in Oregon make him a favorite son for the Oregon seat on the bench. I strongly urge his appointment.”

The Senate has so far confirmed six of Trump’s judicial nominees, the most recent being Timothy Kelly, who sailed through on a 94-2 vote on Monday. The Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on four more nominees at a business meeting on Thursday morning, but Democrats requested to hold the nominees for another week, as is common practice.

The committee approved six United States attorney nominees by a unanimous voice vote on Thursday morning.


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