One federal appeals court seat in Ohio illustrates what conservatives hope for in President Trump’s judicial picks, and it’s why they want Robert Alt to take the seat of retiring Judge Alice Batchelder on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Ohio has been Ground Zero for presidential contests for decades. In my years of public service—Cincinnati mayor, thirteen years of statewide office, and years of presidential appointments—the Buckeye State has been a microcosm that showcases the struggle to drain the Establishment Swamp by advancing the Constitution.
In my almost seven decades of living in Ohio, there’s never been a more devoted guardian of our Constitution to sit on our federal courts than Judge Alice Batchelder, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1985 to the federal district court covering northern Ohio. She served as Chief Judge 2009-2014.
Though content as a federal trial judge, conservative leaders kept telling the White House to give her a larger role. President George H.W. Bush listened. In 1991, the Senate confirmed her nomination to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, with jurisdiction over Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
Judge Batchelder has been a leader on the federal bench ever since. She is an unflinching constitutional conservative who believes the Constitution must always be interpreted according to its original meaning. If there’s something wrong with the way a law is written, then it’s up to the people to change it through the ballot box. A judge’s job is always to follow the law, never to rewrite it.
She sees this as a calling, a lifelong obligation that began when she swore her oath to Almighty God to support and defend the Constitution of the United States “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” An honorable woman of devout Christian faith, each day she follows that calling faithfully.
That’s why in 2005 she was on the short list for the Supreme Court seat that eventually went to Justice Samuel Alito.
Alice and her husband Bill (retired Ohio House Speaker) have been my friends for decades, years before they rose to the heights of power they’ve achieved. Their love for this country—and for each other—is what every American should pray for in their public leaders.
And it’s what Ohio conservatives want in the person who will take Judge Batchelder’s seat, now that she has told President Trump that she will step down from the bench upon the Senate’s confirmation of her successor. The president is rumored to be close to choosing who her replacement will be.
I’ve heard the names of fine lawyers being considered for the job. But I must say that President Trump could do no better than appoint one of Judge Batchelder’s former law clerks, Robert Alt, as her successor.
Robert has spent his entire career fighting for those same constitutional principles that his judge has fought for. A graduate of top law school, as a young lawyer he served in her chambers. Then he decided not to pursue the extremely lucrative career that these elite credentials could provide for him.
Instead, he dedicated his life to advancing the rule of law through limited government and courts that strictly interpret the Constitution according to the meaning of its words.
At the Heritage Foundation, where we both served at different times, he was Heritage’s go-to guy for textualism, which means interpreting laws the way they are written.
When the conservative movement was struggling to advance in Ohio, I recruited Robert to be the new director of the Buckeye Institute, where I was the former Ronald Reagan Fellow. For years now in our shared home state, he has been a principled warrior breaking down the Establishment’s walls, forcing the government to answer to the people. There’s a swamp in parts of Ohio government, and Robert has labored tirelessly with me to drain it.
I’m sure that all of the people being considered for this judgeship are honorable people, and would serve ably. But for this seat—Alice Batchelder’s seat—the 32 million Americans who live in the four states of the Sixth Circuit deserve someone with a 100-percent proven track record of being willing to take the slings and arrows from the Swamp, the Deep State, and the Establishment.
With Robert Alt, President Trump would have a federal appeals judge who will never let him or the American people down.
Ken Blackwell formerly served as Ohio secretary of state, Ohio treasurer, and domestic policy advisor to President Trump’s transition team.