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Senate panel approves judge over objections by California lawmakers

Caroline S. Engelmayer, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday on party lines to support a controversial nominee to the California-based federal appeals court, overriding the objections of the state's two senators.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Kamala Harris, both Democrats, argued that Daniel A. Bress, whom President Donald Trump had nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, has lived in California for only one year since high school and doesn't practice law in the state.

"It's clear from his record that Mr. Bress does not have the connection to California that is necessary to represent the state on the 9th Circuit," Feinstein said.

"He has lived and practiced law in Washington for most of his adult life," she said. "I'm disappointed that the White House nominated him over the objections of both Sen. Harris and myself."

The Republican-led committee voted to endorse Bress' nomination 12-10, along party lines. The full Senate is expected to confirm his nomination.

Bress is the latest Trump judicial nominee to garner support from Republican senators despite lacking "blue slip" approval -- the endorsement of senators from the candidate's home state. Traditionally, the Senate gave home-state senators virtual veto power over judicial nominations.

That changed in February, when the Senate confirmed Trump nominee Eric Miller to the 9th Circuit despite the objections of both Democratic senators from his home state of Washington.

In the hearing Thursday, Feinstein argued that the "blue slip" system is necessary to ensure that federal judges are familiar with the complex legal challenges of the states where they preside.

"As senators, we have a right to demand that an individual being nominated to represent our state in a circuit court actually be a practicing lawyer based in that state," she said.


Harris said she "strongly" opposes the nomination and thinks "this process is flawed."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the committee chairman, said Republican support for Bress doesn't mark a major break from Senate protocols. He said other judges had been approved for federal courts in states where they had not lived for years.

Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, Graham noted, was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, whose jurisdiction includes Colorado.

Gorsuch spent his childhood in Colorado but his family moved to Washington, D.C., when he was a teenager and he never moved back to the state.

Both of Colorado's senators, including one Democrat, supported Gorsuch during the nomination process, however.

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