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Trump announces new judicial picks despite past vetting concerns

President Donald Trump nominated a ...

Posted: Dec 21, 2017 8:02 AM
Updated: Dec 21, 2017 8:02 AM

President Donald Trump nominated a new slate of judges Wednesday, including several more seasoned jurists than the controversial nominees that the administration has had to withdraw in recent weeks.

The nominations reflect a determination by the White House to push forward with its goal of reshaping the judiciary, undeterred by criticism that the nomination process should slow down so the Senate can give closer scrutiny of nominees. Already, the Senate has broken records by confirming 12 appeals court judges in Trump's first year.

Nominations reflect Trump's determination to reshape the judiciary

Senate has broken records by confirming 12 appeals court judges in Trump's first year

Many of the names put forward Wednesday include candidates with experience as magistrate judges or government and private lawyers. Three were previously nominated by former President Barack Obama, though they were not moved to the end of the confirmation process by a Republican Senate.

The new list includes Joel M. Carson III, Susan Paradise Baxter, Marilyn Jean Horan, William F. Jung, Jill Otake, Maryellen Noreika, Gordon P. Giampietro, Chad F. Kenney, Kari A. Dooley and Colm F. Connolly.

Carson is up for a seat on the powerful US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver. He currently serves as a part-time US magistrate judge in Roswell, New Mexico, where he also works at the firm of Carson Ryan. According to his law firm biography, he is a former general counsel of one of New Mexico's largest producers of oil and gas. After law school, he served as a clerk to Judge Bobby R. Baldock of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Baxter, Horan and Jung are up for federal district court judgeships and were previously nominated to the posts by Obama. Connolly was nominated by former President George W. Bush for the same district court position in 2008.

The 10 judicial nominations announced Wednesday come after the testimony of a different nominee - Matthew S. Petersen - went viral last week. The clip depicted an exchange with Sen. John Kennedy, R- Louisiana, who asked Petersen basic legal questions during his confirmation hearing. Petersen stumbled badly and later withdrew his name from consideration, saying in a letter to the President that he did not want to become a distraction. "I had hoped that my nearly two decades of public service might carry more weight than my two worst minutes on television," Petersen wrote.

Petersen, a commissioner for the Federal Election Commission, was up for a seat on the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

Earlier, Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked the White House to reconsider two other nominees, Brett Talley and Jeff Mateer. Talley had failed to disclose on his Senate questionnaire that his wife was a top aide to White House Counsel Don McGahn. As CNN first reported, Mateer said in 2015 that transgender children are part of "Satan's plan." The speech had also not been disclosed on his Senate questionnaire. A White House official said later that neither nomination would move forward.

After the withdrawals, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, released a statement saying she hoped that the White House and Senate Republicans "learn a lesson".

"This is a clear signal that the White House isn't properly vetting nominees but instead counting on Senate Republicans to jam them through with minimal review," she said.

Asked about vetting procedures on MSNBC Wednesday, Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, said the administration has "great vetting procedures." He acknowledged the three recent withdrawals and said, "A couple have not made it across the finish line, and I'm not worried about that."

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Trump Wednesday for the rapid pace at which he's nominated judges that the Senate could confirm.

"Mr. President, thanks to your nominees, we put 12 circuit court judges in place -- the most since the circuit court system was established in 1891," McConnell said at a White House event celebrating the passage of tax overhaul legislation. "You hold the record."

Trump also nominated two federal prosecutors Wednesday. He picked Billy J. Williams to serve as United States Attorney for Oregon and William M. McSwain for United States attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Liberal groups have decried how quickly the Trump administration is moving forward.

"For decades, the federal courts have arguably been the most important backstop in protecting the rights of those most vulnerable in our country, and each federal judge, each case, and each decision has an impact on an unquantifiable number of Americans," Sharon McGowan, director of strategy at Lambda Legal said in a statement Wednesday. "Each of these confirmed judges will outlast this administration and have the potential to decimate civil rights in the Trump's vision for generations to come."

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