- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2020

President Trump plans to nominate Judge Justin Walker, 37, for the federal appeals court in D.C., making him the youngest nominee since the 1980s to the nation’s premier federal appellate court.

Judge Walker’s nomination comes under one year after his controversial confirmation to a lower court, which attracted criticism from opponents who viewed him as too young and lacking experience. The American Bar Association ranked Judge Walker as “not qualified” last year because of his fewer than 12 years practicing law.

Prior to the Senate’s 50-41 vote to confirm him in October 2019, Judge Walker was a law professor at the University of Louisville in Kentucky and a litigator in private practice. He previously clerked for retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh on the federal appeals court in D.C. that Judge Walker now seeks to join.

During Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle for the Supreme Court, Judge Walker was an ardent defender of Justice Kavanaugh in media appearances on television and in print. Now, he could soon face similar scrutiny to some of Mr. Trump’s other judicial nominations for reasons beyond his relatively young age.

Judge Walker is a devout Catholic, an attribute that has come under fire from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Democratic members. In 2017, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s top-ranking Democrat, chastised Judge Amy Coney Barrett, then a judicial nominee for a Midwestern federal appeals court, for her Catholic faith and said, “The dogma lives loudly within you.”

From a young age, Judge Walker was mentored by a cousin that was a Benedictine monk, and he could face the same treatment as Judge Barrett, according to a source with knowledge of the judicial selection process.

Judge Walker’s Kentucky roots may also rub the Washington legal establishment the wrong way. While he has clerked at the Supreme Court and federal appeals court in D.C. and is a graduate of Harvard Law School, his Kentucky pedigree is far from the norm for judges on the federal appeals court in D.C.

His outsider status will help him with key allies in Congress such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but it could be a barrier to gaining Beltway support from others jockeying for position in D.C.’s power circles.

“Judge Walker is a brilliant and fair jurist who reveres the Constitution and our nation’s founding principles,” Mr. McConnell said. “He understands the crucial but limited role that a judge must play in our constitutional order. I have known my fellow Kentuckian for a long time. The entire country will benefit from having this brilliant, principled and fair-minded legal expert on this consequential bench.”

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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