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Trump judge nominee, 36, who has never tried a case, wins approval of Senate panel

David G. Savage, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

Trump and McConnell have succeeded in pushing judicial nominees through the Senate because the Republicans have voted in lockstep since taking control of the chamber in 2014.

When Trump took office in January, there were more than 100 vacant seats on the federal courts, thanks to an unprecedented slowdown engineered by McConnell during the final two years of President Obama's term. The Senate under GOP control approved only 22 judges in that two-year period, the lowest total since 1951-52 in the last year of President Truman's term. By contrast, the Senate under Democratic control approved 68 judges in the last two years of George W. Bush's presidency.

The best known vacancy was on the Supreme Court. After Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, McConnell refused to permit a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee. Trump filled the seat earlier this year with Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.

The Alliance for Justice, which tracks judicial nominees, said Trump's team is off to a fast start, particularly when compared with Obama's first year. By November 2009, Obama had made 27 judicial nominations, including Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Trump has nominated 59 people to the federal courts, including Justice Gorsuch. That's also a contrast with Trump's pace in filling executive branch jobs, where he has lagged far behind the pace of previous administrations.

Liberal advocates are dismayed that Republicans have voted in unison on Trump's judges.

"So far, no one from his party has been willing to stand up against him on the agenda of packing the courts," said Marge Baker, vice president of People for the American Way.

Last month, when the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on several other nominations, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Talley about his fervent advocacy of gun rights. In a blog post titled a "Call to Arms," he wrote that "the President and his democratic allies in Congress are about to launch the greatest attack on our constitutional freedoms in our lifetime," referring to Obama's proposal for background checks and limits on rapid-fire weapons following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

"The object of that war is to make guns illegal, in all forms," Talley wrote. The NRA "stands for all of us now, and I pray that in the coming battle for our rights, they will be victorious," he added.

A month later, he reprinted a "thoughtful response" from a reader who wrote: "We will have to resort to arms when our other rights -- of speech, press, assembly, representative government -- fail to yield the desired results." To that, he wrote: "I agree completely with this."

When pressed, he told the senators he was "trying to generate discussion. I wanted people to be able to use my blog to discuss issues, to come together and find common ground."

In a follow-up written question, Feinstein asked him how many times he had appeared in a federal district court.

"To my recollection, during my time as Alabama's deputy solicitor general, I participated as part of the legal team in one hearing in federal district court in the Middle District of Alabama," he replied.

On Thursday, the Judiciary Committee approved White House lawyer Greg Katsas on a 11-9 vote to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and then approved Talley on another 11-9 vote. The nominations now move to the Senate floor where a similar party-line result is expected.

(c)2017 Los Angeles Times

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