President Trump’s latest pick for the federal appeals court in D.C. stands out as the youngest nominee to the nation’s premier federal appellate court since the 1980s.
He tapped Judge Justin Walker, 37, for the promotion a year after his confirmation to U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky drew criticism of his age and lack of experience.
The American Bar Association ranked Mr. Walker as “not qualified” last year because of his fewer than 12 years practicing law.
However, Mr. Walker has powerful allies in Congress, including fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader.
“Judge Walker is a brilliant and fair jurist who reveres the Constitution and our nation’s founding principles,” said Mr. McConnell, a Republican. “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.”
Before the Senate’s 50-41 vote to confirm him to the federal bench in October 2019, Mr. 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 Kennedy and Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the federal appeals court in D.C. that Mr. Walker now hopes to join.
During Justice Kavanaugh’s hotly-contested confirmation to the high court, Mr. Walker was an ardent defender of Justice Kavanaugh in media appearances on television and in print. Now, Mr. Walker will come under the same scrutiny faced by some of Mr. Trump’s other judicial nominations — and for reasons beyond his relatively young age.
The judge’s liberal opponents who formerly focused on his age said Friday they now intend to hone in on his actions relating to health care. The Center for American Progress’ Maggie Jo Buchanan said Friday that Mr. Walker was an “unqualified, ideological extremist who would strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and take away health care from millions of Americans.”
People For the American Way, another progressive advocacy group, said that Mr. Walker’s previous praise for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s actions as a lower court judge show that Mr. Walker is hostile to affordable health care.
But Mr. Walker has allies who rallied to his corner on Friday as well. Mike Davis, Article III Project president and former Senate Judiciary Committee counsel on nominations, said Mr. Walker’s confirmation would help “protect all of us from the reptiles in The Swamp” in D.C.
The Article III Project is a conservative group that has advocated for Mr. Trump’s judicial nominees.
“Judge Walker will bring to the Second Highest Court in the Land his everyday-American upbringing, Midwestern sensibilities, impeccable credentials, conservative judicial philosophy, and brilliant legal mind,” Mr. Davis said. “He understands that his modest, but critical, role as a judge is to interpret the law as written — not how he wishes it were written if he were a senator.”