Rebalancing the Ninth Circuit
With impeachment dominating in the House, Senate Republicans are focused on approving more nominations of federal judges. The Senate has already confirmed more than 150 judicial nominees since President Trump took office.
Notably, Trump has made real progress in giving needed balance to the judicial composition of the “left-leaning” Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That court presides over nine Western states, including Nevada, representing 1 in 5 Americans. When Trump became president, only 7 of the 29 appellate judges on the Ninth Circuit were appointees of Republican presidents.
Trump has already nominated and the Senate confirmed seven appointments to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In September, Trump advanced the nominations of three additional talented lawyers to serve on that court. If each is confirmed, the composition of the Ninth Circuit appellate bench would be 16 Democrat appointees and 13 GOP appointees.
The “notorious Ninth” has clashed openly and brazenly with the Supreme Court—and Trump. The high court has reversed about 80% of the Ninth Circuit cases it’s reviewed in recent years.
Trump’s pending nominations are all young and each exceedingly well- credentialed. Lawrence VanDyke, age 46, was Nevada’s solicitor general for four years (2015-2019), appointed by then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt. He’s Trump’s nominee for U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from Nevada. Earlier VanDyke was solicitor general in Montana and assistant solicitor general of Texas.
A Montana native, VanDyke graduated ( highest honors) with B.S. and master’s degrees from Montana State University. A magna cum laude graduate from Harvard Law School in 2005, he edited the Harvard Law Review.
VanDyke clerked for Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the D.C. Circuit (2006-2007) and in Nevada worked on cases involving water , mining and the Second Amendment .
Nevada Senators Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto, both Democrats, criticized the nomination and accused the White House of ignoring “the broad, consensus-based opinion of Nevadans.”
The White House also announced that Patrick Bumatay was the president’s nominee for U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from California.
41 years old, Bumatay was a Yale University (cum laude) graduate in 2000, where he was Phi Beta Kappa. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 2006.
Following law school, Bumatay clerked for two federal court judges and currently leads the appellate and narcotics sections for the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Diego.
Bumatay was first nominated in 2018 but was not renominated earlier in 2019 to placate complaints from California’s Democratic Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. His renomination is over the opposition of Harris and Feinstein, now viewed by the White House as two of the worst mudslingers on the Judiciary Committee after Brett Kavanaugh’s brutal confirmation experience.
If confirmed, Bumatay would be the first Filipino American to serve as a federal appellate judge and the first openly gay judge on the Ninth Circuit. Democrats are apparently frightened that at his age, with his political identity and top legal mind, Bumatay might eventually be Supreme Court material.
Earlier, President Trump nominated Danielle Hunsaker, age 42, an Oregon state circuit court judge, for U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for Oregon. Hunsaker earned her B.S. (cum laude) and J.D. (summa cum laude) from the University of Idaho. She clerked for three federal judges , including the jurist she would replace, Appeals Court Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain.
At Hunsaker’s September nomination hearing , there was no obvious opposition from Democrats. A bipartisan selection committee recommended Hunsaker and three other candidates to Oregon Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. Trump selected Hunsaker from that list.
Each of these nominees is a Federalist Society member— professed “constitutional originalists”. VanDyke, Bumatay and Hunsaker deserve Senate confirmation for the stridently liberal Ninth Circuit to achieve a needed rebalance.
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa