Justice

Trump picks former Jeff Sessions adviser for 9th Circuit Court vacancy in California

President Trump is moving to fill the latest 9th Circuit Court vacancy in California with a controversial nominee who Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris have resisted in the past.

The White House announced on Friday that the president is nominating Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Bumatay to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the nation’s largest and busiest federal appeals court. He was previously a senior adviser to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

It also announced a 9th Circuit appeals court nominee for a vacancy in Nevada and five nominees for federal district court vacancies in California. The 9th Circuit has jurisidiction over Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Trump previously nominated Bumatay to a 9th Circuit vacancy in October 2018, which drew a sharp reaction from Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which confirms judicial nominees.

Feinstein issued a statement at the time complaining that Bumatay had “no judicial experience” and “had not previously been suggested,” in the negotiations between the senator and the White House counsel’s office.

The Senate did not take up Bumatay’s nomination and it expired at the end of the year. After restarting discussions with home state senators Feinstein and Harris, the White House opted not to re-nominate Bumatay to the court in 2019, instead putting him up for a federal district court post.

Harris, who is running for president in 2020, reacted to Friday’s announcement with a scathing statement, calling Bumatay “a highly flawed nominee.”

“I first objected to Mr. Bumatay after his initial nomination to the Ninth Circuit a year ago and again raised concerns about his qualifications and fitness when he was nominated for the district court,” the former California attorney general said. “Mr. Bumatay has a troubling prosecutorial record, lacks the requisite experience, and has drawn criticism from members of California’s legal community, across party lines. It is clear that he lacks the judgment and qualifications to serve on the Ninth Circuit.”

Harris and Feinstein also opposed the three men that the White House nominated to California vacancies on the federal appeals court earlier this year — Daniel Bress, Kenneth Lee and Daniel Collins. It did not stop the Senate from confirming all three in May and June.

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When Judge Carlos Bea, a George W. Bush appointee, announced he was retiring from the 9th Circuit in June, conservative activists immediately began pressing the White House to once again nominate the 41-year-old Bumatay, who would be the first Filipino-American judge to ever serve on a federal appeals court.

If confirmed, Bumatay would also become the fourth conservative, Trump-appointed judge to join the influential appeals court in California. The new judges will not, on their own, shift the 9th Circuit’s liberal tilt, but they advance conservatives’ long-term effort to reshape the federal judiciary.

That effort has accelerated under President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who have done away with some longstanding precedents to move the president’s nominees through the Senate.

It was Senate Democrats, however, who eliminated the filibuster for federal judicial nominees (excepting the Supreme Court) in 2013, which has allowed the current Republican majority in the Senate to push through a slew of Trump-picked judges in the last year-and-a-half.

Emily Cadei works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, where she covers national politics and policy for McClatchy’s California readers. A native of Sacramento, she has spent more than a decade in D.C. reporting on U.S. elections, Congress and foreign affairs for publications including Newsweek, Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call.
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