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By Kevin Daley
Conservative legal scholars lavished praise on President Donald Trump’s latest round of judicial nominations, calling the list a vindication of a central campaign pledge.
The New York Times’ Adam Liptak reported late Sunday that the administration will submit ten nominees to judicial vacancies around the country early this week. Five of the nominations will be to federal appeals courts, four to district courts, and one to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Two of the district court nominees are individuals who former President Barack Obama originally selected.
As with the nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch, the White House solicited input from the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, two institutions who loom large in the conservative legal firmament.
The appeals court nominees include two individuals who appeared on Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court candidates: Justice Joan Larsen, a former Antonin Scalia clerk and law professor serving on the Michigan Supreme Court will be nominated to a seat on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Justice David Stras, a former Clarence Thomas clerk and academic serving on the Minnesota Supreme Court, will be nominated to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The other three appeals court nominees include Notre Dame Law School professor Amy Coney Barrett — another Scalia clerk — to the 7th Circuit, former Alabama Solicitor General Kevin Newsom to the 11th Circuit, and John Bush, a lawyer in private practice, to the 6th Circuit. Bush represented President Ronald Reagan during the Iran-Contra investigation, and local media describes him as a “guiding figure in the local Federalist Society.”
“I think it’s an outstanding group of ten,” John Malcolm, a legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. He says Larsen, Stras, and Barrett each led “outstanding careers” in the academy, while characterizing Newsom and Bush as accomplished practitioners who enjoy strong reputations in legal circles.
“These are very bright people who have written a lot on legal issues, and they’re certainly intellectually rigorous,” he added.
Though he admires this wave of judicial nominees, he cautioned that conservatives should not expect an immediate windfall.
“An articulate, thoughtful judge can certainly have an effect on their colleagues, but these are all independent people who have their own minds,” he said, pointing out that Clinton and Obama appointees constitute a significant majority of federal judges. “You’re not going to overturn that overnight.”
Other experts shared Malcolm’s enthusiasm.
“The nominees make up an impressive list of highly respected jurists, attorneys and legal thinkers,” said Jonathan Adler, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law who helped lay the groundwork for several court challenges to the Affordable Care Act. “Those of us who doubted Trump would take judicial nominations seriously may have some crow to eat.”
Veterans of past judicial confirmations were also pleased.
“President Trump is building on the success of his nomination of Justice Gorsuch with an outstanding new slate of nominees for the lower federal courts,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative advocacy group. “The nominees have stellar qualifications and a record of courageous commitment to the rule of law that will make them excellent additions to the federal bench.”
Eight of the ten nominations were submitted to the Senate late Monday. Two of the district court nominees will be formally nominated in the near future.