- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2017

President Trump picked a slate of conservative judges and lawyers Thursday to fill seats on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, setting up what’s likely to be a new set of battles over confirmation.

The nominees were announced just hours after the Senate confirmed another appeals court pick, Judge Ralph R. Erickson, to the 8th Circuit in a 95-1 vote.

Only Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, voted against his confirmation — though Republicans said Democrats used every procedural hurdle they had to delay the vote.

“This has got to stop. It’s time to end these games,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the chamber floor.

The 5th Circuit nominees will likely spark even bigger battles than Judge Erickson.

Mr. Trump nominated Texas Supreme Court Justice Don R. Willett, former Texas Solicitor General James Ho, former Louisiana Solicitor General Kyle Duncan and Judge Kurt Engelhardt, who serves in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Several of the nominees have ties to the Federalist Society, the influential group of conservative and libertarian lawyers and academics that has helped advise Mr. Trump on court picks.

“Texas Justice Don Willett and Louisiana attorney and professor Kyle Duncan, in particular, embody President Trump’s commitment to picking judges who have a record of excellence and a commitment to a judicial role that is impartial rather than committed to a particular personal or legal agenda,” said Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society.

Those ties could also make those picks particular targets for Democrats, who have objected to the Federalist Society’s influence and funding.

Mr. Duncan, meanwhile, has been an attorney for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented Hobby Lobby in its legal challenge against President Obama’s contraceptive mandate.

Justice Willett is known for his active Twitter use, where he was often critical of then-candidate Trump during the 2016 campaign. He has served on the Texas Supreme Court for more than a decade.

Mr. Ho succeeded Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as solicitor general in Texas.

“I am confident that he will be a stellar jurist and an intellectual force on the court,” Mr. Cruz said on Thursday.

Mr. Trump also nominated three attorneys for district judge posts on Thursday: Barry Ashe for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Daniel D. Domenico for Colorado, and Howard Nielson Jr. for Utah.

Ryan Holte, a law professor at the University of Akron, was selected for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and Gregory E. Maggs, a law professor at George Washington University, was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Mr. Trump entered office with an unprecedented amount of judicial vacancies. He has more than 144 federal court posts to fill, with 44 nominees currently pending following Mr. Erickson’s confirmation Thursday.

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