WASHINGTON, DC – Senators confirmed three high-priority Trump judges to the federal appeals courts last week without a single Democrat voting for any of them, with one of those new judges replacing an irreplaceable conservative judicial icon, Judge Alice Batchelder.
The Senate confirmed Allison Jones Rushing on March 6 as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which covers five states in the middle of the Eastern Seaboard. The vote was 53-44. At age 37, Judge Rushing is the youngest appellate judge appointed by President Donald Trump. A partner at powerhouse law firm Williams & Connelly, Rushing is an Evangelical Christian – a group that is underrepresented on the federal appeals bench – and a former law clerk both to Justice Neil Gorsuch (when he served on the Tenth Circuit appeals court) and Justice Clarence Thomas.
The other two confirmations were for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which covers Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. With them, President Trump has appointed six of the 16 seats on that court, the single largest impact on any federal court to date measured either by absolute numbers or by percentages.
First is Chad Readler, who was confirmed 52-47 on March 6. Readler has been serving as the principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) since President Trump took office, making him the second in command in a division with over 1,000 attorneys. He previously worked as a partner at Jones Day, one of the largest law firms in the world. Judge Readler was recommended by former White House Counsel Don McGahn – who likewise was a partner at Jones Day and is now returning to that firm – and took a leading role defending President Trump’s policies against legal challenges during 2017 and early 2018 while Senate Democrats obstructed confirmation of the permanent head of DOJ’s Civil Division, Jody Hunt.
Second is Eric Murphy, who was confirmed 52-46 on March 7. Murphy is the solicitor general of Ohio, and well known as a stalwart conservative. Liberals attacked him for a host of reasons, including defending Ohio’s law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. (Defending state laws against legal challenges is a central part of the job of any solicitor general.) He formerly clerked for a prominent judge on the Fourth Circuit and then for Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.
Murphy’s confirmation marks the passing of a baton, as he takes the seat being vacated by Judge Batchelder, who has been one of the originalist champions on the federal bench for 27 years. President Ronald Reagan appointed Batchelder to the federal district bench in Ohio in 1985, and Bush 41 elevated her to the Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit in 1991.
Like Judge Edith Jones on the Fifth Circuit, Batchelder has been a generation-long anchor for her Sixth Circuit on adhering to the original public meaning of the Constitution, regardless of political pressures or opinion polls. She was considered for the Supreme Court in 2005 – as Jones was in 1990 – but by all accounts was genuinely relieved when President George W. Bush picked Samuel Alito for the seat, preferring small-town life in Ohio to living in the nation’s capital.
Jones and Batchelder have served as the deeply admired twin conservative matriarchs on the federal bench for more than a quarter century. Several other judges have worn the mantle of unflinching originalists, like Diarmuid O’Scannlain on the Ninth Circuit and David Sentelle on the D.C. Circuit, but with their elegant and maternal demeanors, Jones and Batchelder have stood out as doyennes of the federal bench in a dignified manner reminiscent of the United Kingdom’s “Iron Lady,” Margaret Thatcher.
Batchelder’s latest act of service in her long career occurred when she sent her letter to President Trump informing him that she was ready to take senior status, which is a semi-retired status where judges still hear cases part-time but give up their seat to be filled by a new judge. Instead of taking her status immediately, she informed the president that she would continue to hold the seat not only until he nominated her replacement, but also would keep on serving until the Senate confirmed that nominee. That way, she could continue to serve alongside all the regular-service judges to rehear important cases in en banc sittings until the day when a younger constitutionalist judge could fill that seat in her stead.
Although she is handing off her seat to Murphy, Batchelder will continue hearing cases on a part-time time basis instead of retiring, continuing with Jones to set the pace for dozens of new Trump-appointed constitutional conservatives.
Regarding the three nominees confirmed last week – as well as Judge Eric Miller, confirmed one week earlier to the Ninth Circuit by a vote of 53-46 with no Democrats in support – the American Bar Association (ABA) rated all of these nominees as either “Qualified” or “Well Qualified.”
The ABA is a leftwing organization that Democrats hail as the “gold standard” for evaluating judicial nominees. Yet despite the ABA’s declaring that all these nominees fully qualified for their judgeships, not a single Democrat – not even Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) or the very vulnerable Sen. Doug Jones (AL) – voted for any of them.
Federal judges continue to be one of President Trump’s greatest achievements. Five more appellate nominees, and 37 nominees to the federal trial courts, are on the Senate calendar for a final floor votes in the weeks ahead.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News and formerly served as a law clerk under Judge Batchelder. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.