- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2017

Ten of President Trump’s judicial nominees moved one step closer to confirmation Thursday over complaints from Democrats, who said the judicial confirmations were moving too swiftly.

Leonard Grasz for the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, James Ho and Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, both for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, all moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote of 11-9.

The next hurdle will come on the chamber floor when the full Senate votes on the confirmations.

“This is the fastest confirmation pace I can remember in my 25 years serving on this committee,” said California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee.

She said Mr. Trump has had nine circuit court nominees confirmed, which is more than any president has had in a first year since President Nixon. Ms. Feinstein has raised concerns over inadequate vetting of the Trump administration’s nominees due to the rushed pace.

Democrats on the committee refused to back Mr. Grasz’s nomination after he received a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, which Democrats have called the gold standard for judges.

But Republicans have argued the organization is a liberal advocacy group and its ratings shouldn’t be indicative of a judicial nominee’s qualifications.

Mr. Grasz, a Nebraska lawyer, said the ABA gave him the low score because he is conservative.

Committee Chairman Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said Mr. Grasz has briefed nine cases before the Supreme Court and one of those was on behalf of Nebraska’s ban on partial-birth abortion.

“This appears to be a driving force for the ABA’s head-scratching decision to argue Mr. Grasz is ‘unqualified,’” Mr. Grassley said.

Mr. Ho, a Texas lawyer, and Justice Willett also faced pushback from the committee’s Democrats.

They opposed Mr. Ho over of a memo he drafted while working at the Justice Department on torture, which was unavailable for the committee to review.

Meanwhile, Justice Willett was criticized for his use of Twitter by both parties.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, raised concerns about one of Justice Willett’s tweets appearing to make fun of a transgender woman.

“It would seem to send a clear message that not all people are going to be welcomed in his courtroom,” said Mr. Leahy.

Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, also thought the tweets were a problem, but decided to vote for Justice Willett anyway.

“People perceive things in different ways and it only takes one or two tweets for folks to think, ‘Well, that’s not a fair judge,’” Mr. Kennedy said.

In addition to the three circuit court nominees, the committee cleared Mark Norris, Sr., for the Western District of Tennessee by a party-line vote.

Six other district court judges received a voice vote in support of their confirmations Thursday: Terry Doughty for the Western District of Louisiana, Terry Moorer for the Southern District of Alabama, Claria Boom for the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky, John Broomes for the District of Kansas, Rebecca Jennings for the Western District of Kentucky, and Robert Wier for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Nan Aron, president of the progressive Alliance for Justice, said the judicial nominations process is spinning out of control.

“It is disgraceful that in their stampede to rush through as many judicial nominees as possible, Republican partisans on the Judiciary Committee continue to trample basic standards for nominees, longstanding Senate practice, and their own Democratic colleagues,” she said.

But Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, said Mr. Trump is on par with the Clinton administration in terms of judicial confirmations during the first year.

“This pace shows the priority this administration has placed on judges, unlike President Obama, who didn’t make it a priority,” said Ms. Severino.

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