The Trump administration is vetting candidates to fill two vacancies on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the New Orleans-based appeals court that includes Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
John Council of the National Law Journal reports the candidates under consideration include Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor, Texas appeals court Justices Michael Massengale and Brett Busby, former Texas solicitor general James Ho, and Andy Oldham, deputy counsel to Gov. Greg Abbott.
The 5th Circuit is among the most conservative appellate courts in the country. Nine of the court’s 14 judges were appointed by Republican presidents.
Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz will both play major roles in the appointment process. Typically, senators representing states where judicial vacancies occur are given a high degree of deference by the White House and their congressional colleagues in recommending candidates. In addition, both men sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee will meet in Houston this week to vet the six candidates. All of the committee’s members were appointed by Cornyn and Cruz.
It’s unlikely, however, the administration will make headway on lower court appointments while the Senate considers the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Confirmations to the high court typically stymie progress on lower court vacancies.
“My guess is you’re not likely to see a whole lot of nominees, or even any nominees, until the Supreme Court confirmation is over,” professor Carl Tobias of University of Richmond School of Law told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Tobias is an expert in federal courts and judicial selection.
“The rest of the process sort of came to a halt,” he added. “The circuit and district nominees didn’t have very many hearings at all.”
There are over 100 vacancies across the federal courts as of this writing, affording President Donald Trump an unprecedented opportunity to recast the judiciary.
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