Trump Judicial Nominee Falters Amid Conservative Revolt

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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A second conservative lawmaker will vote against U.S. District Judge Halil Suleyman “Sul” Ozerden’s nomination for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, placing the confirmation in serious jeopardy.

GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri privately informed colleagues that he would oppose Ozerden Thursday morning, a source familiar with those consultations told the Daily Caller News Foundation. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham then postponed a scheduled committee vote to forward Ozerden’s nomination to the full Senate.

Despite the swell of opposition from the right, the Trump administration has no plans to withdraw Ozerden from consideration.

“The administration stands by Judge Ozerden’s nomination,” a Department of Justice spokesman told the DCNF. “He is going to serve the people of the 5th Circuit well and we look forward to his confirmation by the Senate.”

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said he has serious doubts about Ozerden’s conservative bona fides and would vote against his confirmation on Sept. 12. Both Cruz and Hawley sit on the Judiciary Committee. As such, Ozerden will need Democratic support in order to advance from the committee to the Senate floor with a favorable recommendation.

Cruz grilled Ozerden during his July 17 confirmation hearing, saying Ozerden has few discernible connections to the conservative legal movement. Many of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees worked in Republican administrations or are affiliated with conservative cause lawyering groups and the Federalist Society. (RELATED: As Democrats Prepare For Impeachment, Senate GOP Tees Up More Judicial Confirmations)


Ozerden is a federal trial judge in Gulfport, Mississippi, and a close friend of acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Legal conservatives mobilized against Ozerden well in advance of his formal nomination, citing several decisions which in their view deviate from right-wing legal orthodoxy.

In one case, Ozerden dismissed a challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate from the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi. The judge dismissed the case on a technical issue, saying the Obama administration was still amending the relevant regulations, making a legal challenge premature.

In another 2011 decision, Ozerden approvingly cited several cases which derive from Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which a fractured Supreme Court upheld the core of Roe v. Wade. That dispute involved a civil rights lawsuit a Mississippi woman brought against a county police officer for sexual misconduct. Ozerden ruled that the woman’s lawsuit could proceed, saying the alleged conduct would violate the 14th Amendment right to bodily sovereignty if proven true.

As a general matter, some legal conservatives have questioned Ozerden on competence grounds. The Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino described the legal analysis in some of Ozerden’s rulings as “unduly curt” in a review of his judicial record.

A Navy veteran and graduate of Stanford Law School, Ozerden was an attorney in private practice before former President George W. Bush appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi in 2007.

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