Trump Picks New Alabama Judge for Seat on 11th Circuit

WASHINGTON (CN) – As President Donald Trump plans to highlight the breakneck pace at which he and the Republican-controlled Senate have filled vacancies on federal courts, Trump announced seven new judicial nominees on Wednesday, including one to fill a seat on the 11th Circuit.

The Elbert P. Tuttle U.S. Courthouse in Atlanta, home of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. (Photo via Wikipedia Commons)

Trump is scheduled to speak later this afternoon at a White House event highlighting the more than 150 judges he has appointed to the federal courts during his time in office. The Senate is also set to confirm Judge Danielle Hunsaker to a seat on the Ninth Circuit later in the day, a march to confirm nominees that will continue with the new choices Trump announced on Wednesday.

Among the nominees is Judge Andrew Brasher, whom Trump tapped for a seat on the 11th Circuit. A former Alabama solicitor general, Brasher will make his second pass through the Senate in less than a year, as senators confirmed him to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in May with a 52-47 vote.

Brasher served as Alabama solicitor general starting in 2014, having worked as the state’s deputy solicitor general for the three years prior. Before entering government, Brasher worked at the firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings and clerked for Judge William Pryor Jr. on the 11th Circuit.

The second fight over Brasher will likely center on arguments he advanced in court fights while in the state solicitor general’s office, as Democrats objected to his nomination on those grounds his first time through the confirmation process.

Like other judicial nominees who have served as top lawyers in red states, Brasher has signed onto briefs in controversial cases touching on issues from gay rights to gerrymandering and voting rights.

In the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case, in which the Supreme Court found a constitutional right to marriage, Brasher filed a brief on behalf of Alabama in support of Ohio’s ban on gay marriage. He also filed a brief for the state urging the high court to strike down key portions of the Voting Rights Act in the Shelby County v. Holder case and has defended Alabama’s legislative map against racial gerrymandering claims.

At his nomination hearing last year, Brasher said he signed onto the briefs and made the arguments he did as part of his duty to advance the interests of his client, which at the time was the state of Alabama.

“I think it’s my role, ethically, as an advocate for my client to vigorously defend my client’s interests,” Brasher told the Senate Judiciary Committee last year.

Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., praised Brasher’s nomination in a tweet on Wednesday afternoon, saying Brasher’s “legal experience & commitment to the rule of law will ensure that he excels in this important role.”

In addition to Brasher, Trump on Wednesday announced six new nominees to federal district courts across the country, including two who would serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which hears cases out of Manhattan.

One of the seats would go to John Cronan, who currently serves as principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. Cronan also spent time as the acting assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division from November 2017 until July 2018.

Before joining the Justice Department in Washington, Cronan worked as a federal prosecutor in New York City, where he focused on terrorism cases. Among his prosecutions while in the Southern District of New York were attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and al-Qaida spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law.

A graduate of Yale Law School, Cronan clerked for Judge Barrington Parker Jr., on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the Second Circuit and for Judge Robert Katzmann on the Second Circuit.

The other New York seat Trump aims to fill with his latest batch of nominations would go to Iris Lan, who serves as associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department, where she is on detail from her position as a federal prosecutor in New York City.

A Harvard graduate, Lan clerked for Judge William Bryson on the Federal Circuit and has served in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and as counsel for the assistant attorney general in the agency’s National Security Division.

A spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the New York Democrat “looks forward to reviewing these nominees’ records, as he does with all executive and judicial nominees.”

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office said she is still evaluating both nominees.

Another nominee with experience as a federal prosecutor is Matthew Schelp, a partner at the Saint Louis firm Husch Blackwell who if confirmed would sit on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Schlep’s practice focuses on white collar defense and investigations, and his profile says he has defended clients facing investigations by the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Schlep counts among his clients the agrochemical company Monsanto, which he represented in a suit against a former data analyst the company accused of stealing confidential information.

Trump selected Judge John Hinderaker for a spot on the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Hinderaker has served on the Arizona Superior Court for Pima County since 2018, when Governor Doug Ducey appointed him to the seat.

Before taking the bench, Hinderaker worked for two decades at the Tucson, Ariz., firm Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie, where he focused his practice on commercial litigation.

For a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Trump nominated Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart shareholder Scott Hardy. Hardy’s practice focuses on investigations and commercial litigation, including defending companies in investigations conducted by federal agencies and regulators.

He also handles intellectual property cases, arbitration and collective bargaining, according to his profile on the Ogletree Deakins website. He worked at the firm Cohen & Grigsby before joining Ogletree Deakins’ Pittsburgh office.

Senator Bob Casey, D-Pa., said in a statement that Hardy was the product of a “longstanding bipartisan process” with Pennsylvania’s Republican senator, Pat Toomey.

“[Hardy] is a capable attorney who has the necessary intellect, experience and character to faithfully and independently administer justice for the people of the commonwealth,” Casey said. “I am grateful for his willingness to serve.”

The final nomination Trump announced Wednesday was John Heil, who would take a seat shared between the U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Eastern and Western Districts of Oklahoma if confirmed.

Heil has worked at the Tulsa, Oklahoma firm Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable, Golden & Nelson since 2000, having previously worked as a state prosecutor in the city and at the firm Ronald D. Wood & Associates.

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