WASHINGTON — Having filled a Supreme Court vacancy, President Trump is turning his attention to the more than 120 openings on the lower Federal courts. On Monday, he will announce a slate of 10 nominees to those courts, a senior White House official said, the first in what could be near monthly waves of nominations.
The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, said the nominations were a vindication of a commitment Mr. Trump made during the campaign “to appoint strong and principled jurists to the federal bench who will enforce the Constitution’s limits on federal power and protect the liberty of all Americans.”
The administration continues to draw on lists of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees, put together with the help of the conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation, that Mr. Trump issued during the campaign. But it is looking at other sources, too, the White House official said. Mr. McGahn, who has supervised the selection of the nominees, is looking for scholarly credentials and “intellectual boldness,” among other qualities, the official added.
Jonathan H. Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, said the appeals court picks on Mr. Trump’s list included “incredibly strong nominees” who were within the judicial mainstream and should “have an intellectual influence on their courts.”Continue reading the main story
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But liberal groups expressed alarm at the prospect of a federal bench filled with Mr. Trump’s appointees. “The Trump administration has made clear its intention to benefit from Republican obstructionism and to pack the federal courts with ultraconservatives given a stamp of approval by the Federalist Society,” said Nan Aron, the president of the Alliance for Justice, referring to the conservative legal group. “We’ll be scrutinizing the records of these nominees very carefully.”
The candidates to be announced Monday include two judges from the lists issued during the campaign. Both serve on state supreme courts, and the administration may believe that Senate confirmation and a record of federal judicial opinions will make them more attractive candidates for eventual elevation to the Supreme Court.
One is Justice Joan L. Larsen, a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and law professor at the University of Michigan, who now serves on the Michigan Supreme Court. She will be nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati.
The other is Justice David R. Stras, a former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas and law professor at the University of Minnesota, who now serves on the Minnesota Supreme Court. He will be nominated to the Eighth Circuit, in St. Louis.
Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court appointee, was on the campaign lists. So was Amul R. Thapar, a Federal District Court judge in Kentucky, Mr. Trump’s only nominee so far to the lower federal courts. Judge Thapar awaits a vote on his nomination to the Sixth Circuit.
Monday’s slate of nominees will be followed by additional ones at regular intervals, the White House official said.
The announcement on Monday will include three other nominees for federal appeals courts: Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame and former law clerk to Justice Scalia, to the Seventh Circuit in Chicago; John K. Bush, a lawyer in Louisville, Ky., to the Sixth Circuit; and Kevin C. Newsom, a lawyer in Birmingham, Ala., who served as the state’s solicitor general and as a law clerk to Justice David H. Souter, to the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.
Ms. Aron said Democrats should be wary of Mr. Trump’s nominees. “Given the critical importance of the circuit courts,” she said, “it is incumbent upon the Senate to treat its duty to provide advice and consent very seriously.”
But Professor Adler said the nominations were consistent with mainstream Republican views and ambitions.
“There are plenty of things about this president and this administration that are unconventional,” he said, but “thus far, the Trump administration’s judicial nominees have been in line with what you would expect from a Republican president.”
“These are people who you would expect will have an intellectual influence on their courts,” he added. “That’s something historically that, for the last 35 years, Republican presidents have cared about — about not merely nominating people who are qualified, but who can also be expected to be thought leaders.”
Mr. Trump also intends to nominate four judges to federal district courts: Dabney L. Friedrich, until recently a member of the United States Sentencing Commission, to the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia; Magistrate Judge Terry F. Moorer of the Federal District Court in Montgomery, Ala., to be a district judge there; David C. Nye, a state judge in Idaho, to the Federal District Court there; and Scott L. Palk, an official at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, to the Federal District Court in Oklahoma City.
The president will also name Damien M. Schiff, a lawyer with the Pacific Legal Foundation, which supports private property rights, to the United States Court of Federal Claims.