Before we meet Trump’s next batch of lifetime appointees to the judiciary, I need to point out that while all these judges would still likely get confirmed with Democrats obstructing the process, they certainly wouldn’t get on the bench this quickly if the Democrats did the opposite of what Chuck Schumer’s leadership hath wrought. Plus, they’d pick off a few wildly unqualified opponents here and there (like Jonathan A. Kobes, who was passed out of committee on party lines yesterday, despite receiving a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association) because the Democrats would then force Republicans to put their name on every vote, instead of allowing UNANIMOUS FREAKING PASSAGE on a less-detailed voice vote. Mitch McConnell stymied Barack Obama’s ability to confirm judges, and as of May 31st, Trump had confirmed 38% more judges to the federal courts than Obama did at the same point in his presidency. Trump’s judiciary is Chuck Schumer’s legacy.
Literally all that Chuck Schumer had to do was copy McConnell’s playbook, and he would slow the pace of Trump’s confirmations. Instead, in typical establishment Democrat fashion, Schumer has coopted the language of the grassroots #resistance without doing any actual resisting. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right, Schumer, not Pelosi, is the Democratic leader we should be talking about losing their position of power. By allowing all these judges to fly through confirmation unobstructed, he is a de facto Trump supporter. Now, let’s move on to the Trumpian horror show that Schumer’s “leadership” helped bring to our doorsteps.
Credit to Vetting Room for providing a wealth of links that made learning about these judges much easier. Check them out if you want a much more comprehensive review of judges than these few sentence summaries/anecdotes below.
Porter has donated a lot — $13,550 — to Republican candidates since 2000. He has also written extensively against the Affordable Care Act, saying it would “break the Framers’ structural design that for 225 years has preserved individual liberty and served as a check on unlimited federal power.”
The ninth circuit stretches along the Pacific Ocean, beginning in Arizona, and moving west up the coast, encompassing the five states touching the Pacific, along with Nevada, Idaho and Montana. Trump has twice tried to nominate Nelson to be Solicitor to the Department of the Interior, but Democrats Dick Durbin and Bill Nelson blocked his nomination. Instead, Nelson will have to settle for a lifetime appointment in one of the most important judicial districts in America, where he can continue to argue against environmental protections in America’s largest district, like he did in Earth Island Institute v. Hogarth.
The 43-year-old Sullivan grew up in Manhasset, New York, and went on to serve as Deputy General Counsel at the insurance company, Marsh & McLennan. He was also a federal prosecutor who has a record of extremely conservative rulings on criminal issues. His past leaves little doubt as to where his rulings will likely fall as liberals try to unwind America’s mass incarceration.
The rest of these nominees fall into district courts, which sit below circuit courts on the judicial food chain. Ray’s history is a bit mixed, as he helped found the Gwinnett County drug treatment court—which allows drug offenders to have their conviction stricken. That said, he has been extremely hostile to 4th amendment rights of defendants (the right to privacy) on rulings like State v. Hughes, where the trial court found that officers did not have probable cause to conduct a blood test on a driver suspected of driving under the influence, and Ray helped overturn that decision in a 4-3 ruling.
Burke, like most of these judges, is in his 40s and has a conservative history of jurisprudence. He has repeatedly voted to uphold the death penalty, supported Stand Your Ground laws and upheld Alabama’s sexual misconduct law in Gilbert v. State—rejecting the defendant’s claim that a consensual sexual encounter between two men was covered by Lawrence v. Texas (Burke ruled that the defendant had not proven that his own conduct was consensual, thus it was not subject to coverage by the landmark ruling).
Juneau belonged to the Krewe of Gabriel from 1993 to 2017—a social club that organizes Mardi Gras events, and in the past, had restricted membership by race (now it just restricts membership to only men). He also is affiliated with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Not all hope is lost though, as he fought against BP in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and paid out billions in claims. He even donated to Al Gore’s presidential campaign, so pigeonholing Juneau is a bit more difficult than other judges on this list.
Norris served in the Tennessee State Senate since 2000, and was the majority leader since 2007. In 2017, he supported a bill seemingly designed to attack gay rights, which would redefine terms in state law to their “natural and ordinary meaning.” In 2016, he sponsored a resolution demanding that Tennessee’s Attorney General block the resettlement of Syrian refugees, and he cited a Breitbart article to back up his claims. Just want to remind everyone that Chuck Schumer believed this man was worthy of a unanimous vote to a lifetime appointment.
Richardson has a reputation of being a reasonable and moderate conservative, and he has largely avoided controversy throughout his career—which means that he is a good bet to be friendly to corporate interests. He brings experience from three legal vantage points: FBI agent, federal prosecutor and private practice.
Kleeh spent most of his career as a labor and employment attorney, defending employers in wrongful termination suits. He has also contributed mightily to West Virginia Republicans, giving Shelley Moore Capito $1,750 in her 2014 Senate run.
Yet another nominee born in the 1970s, Phipps has all the hallmarks of a Republican’s Republican. He represented corporations in civil litigation, defended the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in a decade-long suit brought forth by African American plaintiffs alleging racial discrimination in public housing, defended the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of silencing its gay recruits, and defended HHS grants for organizations with religious exceptions to abortion and contraception. Again—unanimous.
The only woman in this batch is perhaps the most well-respected, as Brnovich spent her entire pre-bench career as a prosecutor. As a Superior Court judge since 2009, she removed a Republican state legislative candidate from the ballot (he lacked the requisite number of signatures), and she has donated once in her life (to the GOP in 2002), proving that she is not beholden to Republican interests, despite her husband unsuccessfully running for Arizona Attorney General as a Republican.
The best thing about Kenney is that he’s 63 years old. It’s not that he’s a nightmare like some of the other folks on this list (like Peter Phipps), but his history is one of a garden variety “centrist” Republican—and those guys got pantsed by Trumpism. They’ve proven to be a feeble line of defense. Former governor Ed Rendell—a Republican who later switched parties to become a Democrat—championed Kenney’s appointment to the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, where he served as president up until his appointment to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. That fact alone is as good a summary you’ll find of Kenney’s career.
Welcome to Texas, where district judges are active members of the Dallas Republican Party—a party which named Kernodle as a Precinct Chair and had him serve on their Host Committee. Kernodle has spent almost his entire career in private practice, becoming an expert in False Claims Act cases while defending government contractors. Welp.
In 2008, Hanlon co-authored a paper titled “Rethinking How to Respond to Government Investigations.” It came in the wake of the 2006 Enron fraud prosecutions, and he became a widely respected voice on the topic of how corporations can defend and protect themselves from government investigations. That he is considered an uncontroversial and respected nominee—while someone who would write a paper titled “Rethinking How to Investigate Corporations” would certainly face more pushback—says a lot about what “uncontroversial” means in our (wholly bought and paid for by private interests) nation’s capital.
Saving the best for last, Walker’s history on the Maine District Court is actually pretty encouraging for liberals. Walker granted a preliminary injunction to the state, who was trying to bar an anti-abortion protester from standing within 50 feet of Planned Parenthood, and he also blocked the state from reinstating criminal charges against 17 protesters from Black Lives Matter. That said, he’s still a member of the Federalist Society, which is the group behind the pool of judges deemed acceptable by the Republican Party, and like I have been saying for some time now: Trump is the Republican Party, the Republican Party is Trump.
P.S. Don’t like watching Schumer hold the door open for Trump’s lifetime judicial appointments? Make sure you’re registered to vote.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.