Circuit Judge Week: Bounds Hearing Complete, Engelhardt Confirmed & Cloture Filed in Brennan Nomination

As we highlighted earlier this week, this is an important week for many of President Trump's judicial nominees, especially circuit court nominees. Several noteworthy events happened today.


Ryan Bounds
Today, Ryan Bounds, nominated to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals back in September 2017, finally had his Senate confirmation hearing (which can be viewed here). Bounds did very well and answered all the questions posed to him. Nonetheless, the obstructionist Senate Democrats brought up two attack narratives which have been repeatedly debunked: some notion that Bounds was less than transparent in providing documents during his initial vetting and arguing that the blue slip tradition is being abandoned.

First, some Senate Democrats tried to claim that Bounds was less than transparent during the vetting process, citing articles he wrote in college that poked fun at political correctness and attempted to offer a commentary on problems he saw in his college community. Ironically, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon attempted to lead this attack, as could be seen on his Senate Floor speech yesterday (at about the 2:00:00 mark). However, as Ed Whelan points out, it was Wyden's own office that advised Bound to only go back through law school for pre-nomination vetting. So, not only is Wyden misleading in this attack, but Bounds followed the advice he sought from Wyden's Office. Further, once there was some question about these writings, Bounds provided these articles for review and further vetting.

Second, many Senate Democrats chose to argue the blue slips talking points again. Throughout the Bounds' hearing, a variety of Senate Democrats repeatedly attempted to bring up that the blue slip tradition has been abandoned or somehow modified. But it has not.

Following Bounds' hearing, Chairman Chuck Grassley delivered a speech on the Senate Floor highlighting the blue slip process under his chairmanship. He specifically noted (around the 3:41:00 mark):

[I]t is my prerogative to have the same blue slip policy as Chairman Biden and Kennedy and the vast majority of predecessors. Accordingly, I have said this, that negative or unreturned blue slips will not necessarily preclude the hearing for circuit court nominees unless the White House failed to consult with home state senators. And I get all sorts of information–I demand all sorts of information from the White House on this sort of consultation that's gone on. That is why I held hearings for David Stras, Kyle Duncan, Michael Brennan and Ryan Bounds despite the lack of two positive blue slips from home state senators. This policy is completely bipartisan. I've applied it to blue slips of Democratic and Republican senators. . . .

This speech is consistent with Chairman Grassley's explanation since the blue slip process became "controversial." Repeatedly, Chairman Grassley has explained how he will handle blue slips in his Judiciary Committee.

Kurt Engelhardt & Michael Brennan
On Senate Floor today, the Senate confirmed District Court Judge Kurt Engelhardt to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, with a vote of 62-34

The Senate also voted to invoke cloture regarding the nomination of Michael Brennan to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. As you may remember, Brennan is another nominee that the obstructionist Senate Democrats attempted to cry foul over the blue slip process. This will be another major vote to watch later this week.

We applaud and thank Leader Mitch McConnell and Chairman Chuck Grassley for their leadership in filling these important judicial vacancies and working to solve our judicial crisis. By filling these posts, the federal courts will run more efficiently and with less of a backlog caused by understaffed courts and overloaded dockets.