President Trump nominated a slew of judges Friday to posts on California-based federal courts, ramping up efforts to reshape the judiciary after hitting a milestone earlier this month with the confirmation of the 150th federal judge on his watch.
Two nominations are for the influential San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a long-liberal bench with jurisdiction across the American West whose political makeup has shifted with Trump’s aggressive appointment campaign.
Among the nominees is Patrick Bumatay, a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of California whom Trump nominated last year for the same job. But objections from California Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, over his lack of judicial experience and other issues, derailed the nomination. Trump later nominated Bumatay, who is openly gay, to a district court seat but his name resurfaced over the summer for a possible comeback bid for the Ninth Circuit amid a new vacancy.
While it is traditional for a nominee’s home-state senators to give their approval, it is not required, and Trump lately has bypassed the so-called “blue slip” tradition in order to get conservative judges on the bench.
While Democrats have fumed at the tactics, conservatives cheered Trump this month for seeing the 150th federal judge confirmed.
“This is a historic milestone,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement. “As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will continue to push through highly qualified, conservative judges at all levels of the federal courts.”
Graham and his Republican allies on the committee are likely to be receptive to Trump’s latest picks. Trump also nominated Lawrence VanDyke, a Justice Department official and former Nevada solicitor general, for the Ninth Circuit.
Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, praised his record fighting “the overreach by the Obama Administration and its job-killing EPA.”
Trump on Friday announced four other nominees for California District Court posts.
But the Ninth Circuit has been a focal point given the sprawling territory it covers and its record in decades past of liberal-leaning rulings.
Under Trump, the court has shifted more moderate with the addition of seven Trump-appointed judges. Nearly half of the 29 seats are now occupied by GOP-appointed judges. Last year, that number stood at six.