Trump Nudges Courts Rightward With Slate of Appeals Nominees

Updated on
  • President unveils 10 conservative judicial selections
  • Move follows confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court

Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 4.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

President Donald Trump took steps Monday to shift the nation’s judiciary to the right by announcing ten conservative nominees to federal appeals courts.

The move follows the confirmation last month of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first pick to the high court and after two previous rounds of federal judicial nominations by the president. The nominees were chosen for "their deep knowledge of the law and their commitment to upholding constitutional principles," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.

Many of the appellate nominees have strong ties to the conservative Federalist Society. Two were on a Trump campaign list of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees compiled with the help of the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. 

Three of the appeals court nominees are former law clerks for either Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia or Justice Clarence Thomas, who for a quarter century were the two most conservative justices. The New York Times reported on Trump’s planned court selections earlier.

The two from the list compiled for the Supreme Court vacancy are Justice Joan Larsen, a former Scalia clerk who now sits on the Michigan Supreme Court, and Justice David Stras, a former Thomas clerk who now sits on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Larsen will be nominated for the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and Stras to the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit.

Larsen is a rising star in conservative legal circles. She graduated first in her class from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, served in President George W. Bush’s Justice Department and taught at the University of Michigan Law School.

Among the others are:

* Amy Barrett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and former Scalia law clerk, to the Chicago-based 7th Circuit;
* John Bush, an attorney in Louisville, Kentucky, to the 6th Circuit;
* Kevin Newsom, an attorney in Birmingham, Alabama, and a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice David Souter, to the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit;
* David Nye, a trial court judge in Pocatello, Idaho to the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho;
* Scott Palk, assistant dean for students and assistant general counsel at the University of Oklahoma College of Law to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma;
* Damien Schiff, a senior attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims;
* Dabney Friedrich, a commissioner on the U.S. Sentencing Commission to the District Court for D.C.;
* Terry Moorer, a magistrate judge on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama to serve as a district judge for that court. 

Trump has already made one federal appeals court nomination, selecting federal district judge Amul Thapar for a seat on the 6th Circuit. Thapar had been in the mix for the Supreme Court vacancy, interviewing with Trump by phone before the president selected Gorsuch to fill the seat left vacant by Scalia’s death last year.

— With assistance by Toluse Olorunnipa

(A version of this story published May 7 was corrected to fix misspelling of David in fifth paragraph.)
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