The U.S. Senate has confirmed yet another Donald Trump nominee to a federal appeals court vacancy, this one on the liberal Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, further solidifying what may become the president’s longest-lasting legacy, balancing the federal courts.
The confirmation of Judge Kenneth K. Lee was not without opposition, which included some remarks that question Lee’s qualifications. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was quoted by the Washington Times asserting, “Lee’s record shows that he is far outside the legal mainstream.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said all three judicial nominees currently being considered for court slots are “extremists,” according to the newspaper.
“We have a parade of narrow ideologues, and that’s not who should be on the bench because they will make law rather than interpret the law,” Schumer reportedly stated.
But Lee, a native of South Korea, got high marks from supporters. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) reportedly attended law school with Lee, and called him “a brilliant lawyer” and “a man of high character.”
According to his Wikipedia biography, “Lee was named one of the ‘Most Influential Minority Attorneys’ by the Los Angeles Business Journal” last year.
It’s another quiet victory for the president, who has filled at least 40 appeals court positions since taking office. Lee’s confirmation also marks a significant defeat for Feinstein and Sen. Kamala Harris, because, according to The Hill, “Lee’s confirmation came despite neither Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, nor Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a 2020 presidential contender, returning a blue slip on his nomination. The blue-slip rule — a precedent upheld by Senate tradition — has historically allowed a home-state senator to stop a lower-court nominee by refusing to return the blue slip to the Judiciary Committee.”
There is still a liberal majority on the Ninth Circuit, but it is narrowing.
Lee had originally been nominated by the president in November 2018 to fill the vacancy left by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who died the previous March. Reinhardt, according to Wikipedia, was the last federal appeals judge on the bench who had been appointed by former President Jimmy Carter. He was considered “one of the most liberal judges on the courts of appeals” and his decisions were frequently reversed by the Supreme Court. In Silviera v. Lockyer, Reinhardt ruled that the right to bear arms is a “collective right,” the Wikipedia biography noted. That ruling was reversed indirectly by the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Dick Anthony Heller.
Lee was re-nominated in January of this year.
The controversy surrounding Trump nominations to fill federal court vacancies has remained somewhat low key in comparison to the continuing efforts by House Democrats to distract public attention and the administration with repeated questions about the report on Russian election interference from special counsel Robert Mueller. But if the president is able to keep nominating conservative judges to the federal bench, whose appointments are for life, it could be good news for American gun owners on Second Amendment issues, and conservatives in general on other topics. They have long contended that the real “activism” on the federal courts has been practiced by liberal judges trying to legislate from the bench.
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