Trump Unveils ‘Eighth Wave’ of Conservative Judicial Nominees

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump has submitted his latest wave of federal judicial nominations, with four of the conservative nominees slated for vacancies on the Fifth Circuit.

Trump’s list, which was revealed by the White House Thursday evening in a release describing it as his “Eighth Wave” of judicial candidates, includes a total of nine nominations. In addition to the Fifth Circuit, it seeks to fill vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and a handful of federal district courts.

All of the nominees are either members of the Federalist Society or listed as “experts” for the organization on its webpage.

The four individuals nominated for the Fifth Circuit are Stuart Kyle Duncan, of Louisiana; Kurt Engelhardt, chief judge of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana; James Ho, a former solicitor General for Texas; and Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willet.

Duncan is currently a partner at Schaerr Duncan in Washington, D.C.

Before joining the firm, he served as general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm which represented crafts giant Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court in 2014.

Duncan was lead counsel in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, ultimately securing a win for the store owner, who challenged the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.

The Columbia University Law School graduate served as solicitor general and appellate chief for the Louisiana Department of Justice and taught at the University of Mississippi Law School.

Engelhardt is a member of the New Orleans chapter of the Federalist Society, and was nominated to the federal bench by President George W. Bush.

He also served on the Judicial Conference Committee of Federal-State Jurisdiction, having originally been appointed to the  body by the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He was reappointed by Rehnquist’s successor, Chief Justice John Roberts, in 2007.

Rounding out nominations for the appellate court are James Ho and Don Willet.

If confirmed, Ho, a partner at the Dallas, Texas firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, would be the tenth Asian-American seated on a federal appeals court. Prior to his serving as Texas solicitor general, he was employed in the state attorney general’s office and prior to that, he clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Ho also served as chief counsel to Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and before that, the University of Chicago Law School grad served as special assistant to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department.

Willett was chosen to fill a vacancy on the Texas Supreme Court by then-Gov. Rick Perry in 2005. He was re-elected in 2006 and 2012. The Duke University grad once served in the White House as a special assistant to President George W. Bush.

In a statement on Thursday, Cornyn lauded both Ho and Willet.

“Jim Ho and Justice Willett are two exceptional legal minds who will faithfully interpret the law, not rewrite it,” Sen. Cornyn said. “Mr. Ho skillfully defended the state before our nation’s highest court while Justice Willett has distinguished himself as a thoughtful jurist known for his legal writing.

Leonard Leo, who resigned from the Federalist Society in order to offer the president guidance on replacements for late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, celebrated Duncan and Willett’s nominations in a statement on Thursday.

“[Willett and Duncan,] in particular, embody President Trump’s commitment to picking judges who have a record of excellence and a commitment to a judicial role that is impartial rather than committed to a particular personal or legal agenda,” Leo said. “They are held in very high regard by scholars and practicing lawyers across the country, and I am confident they will serve with distinction.”

In a tweet late Thursday night, Willet responded to news of his nomination.

“No words. I am honored & humbled by @POTUS’s nomination to the 5th Circuit,” he wrote.

President Trump nominated Gregory Maggs, a George Washington University Law School professor, to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Maggs, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve’s judge advocate general’s corps, specializes in constitutional law, counterterrorism and military and national security law.

Like Ho, Maggs clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas.  The Harvard graduate also clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Trump nominated Barry Ashe to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. A partner at the New Orleans firm Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann, he graduated from Tulane Law School.

Daniel Domenico, currently managing partner at Kittredge LLC in Denver, has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court in Colorado.

Domenico was previously Colorado’s solicitor general.

The president nominated Howard Nielson Jr., partner at Cooper and Kirk in Washington D.C., for a seat on the U.S. District Court in Utah.

Nielson is a former deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Nielson taught constitutional, national security and foreign relations law at Brigham Young University.

Lastly, Ryan Holte, of Ohio, has been nominated to serve as judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The University of Akron Law School professor teaches intellectual property law and has served as general counsel, partner and co-inventor at Counter Echo Solutions, an engineering tech company which develops technology aimed at deflecting enemy drones on the battlefield.

A four-year member of faculty at Southern Illinois University School of Law, Holte has worked as a trial attorney for the Federal Trade Commission.

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