Business & Practice

Trump Judicial Nominee Withdraws Under Senate GOP Pressure (1)

June 11, 2019, 8:54 PMUpdated: June 11, 2019, 11:53 PM

President Donald Trump sustained a rare judicial appointment setback on Tuesday when Michael Bogren, his choice for a district court seat in Michigan, withdrew his nomination over a religious freedom controversy, a source close to the confirmation process said.

Tapped for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Bogren reportedly came under pressure from a number of Senate Republicans and outside conservative groups who questioned his work while representing the city of East Lansing in an LGBT discrimination case.

Bogren couldn’t be reached for comment, and the White House declined to comment when asked about the development.

Published reports in recent days have said that a number of Senate Republicans were either opposed or uneasy about his appointment.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, questioned Bogren closely at his confirmation hearing in May over a brief he wrote in Country Mill Farms, LLC et al v. East Lansing. The ongoing dispute involves a Catholic family banned from participating in a farmer’s market because of its religious-based opposition to hosting weddings for same-sex couples.

Hawley said Bogren, a partner with Plunkett Cooney, had compared the Catholic family’s religious beliefs to those of the Ku Klux Klan.

Bogren said he was simply arguing that if one can justify anti-LGBT discrimination stemming from religious beliefs, that would be problematic because one could similarly justify racial discrimination.

Plunkett Cooney came to his defense in recent days, issuing a letter of support in the face of what it called “unfair criticism” by a handful of senators.

The firm said Bogren is measured “in what he says and does” and uses “common sense in all situations.” In this instance, he was defending a client and that his “arguments cannot and should not be viewed as his personal beliefs.”

Trump Judicial Train

Trump’s judicial appointment record is a highlight of his term so far with his Republican allies in the Senate confirming 114 judges, including two Supreme Court justices, since he took office in 2017.

Trump has vowed to remake the judiciary with conservative appointments, and only a few nominees now have been derailed during the vetting process.

As the Bogren development was unfolding on Tuesday, the Senate easily confirmed longtime Republican Sarah Morrison to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, 89 to 7.

The administrator and chief executive of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is President Donald Trump’s 71st confirmed district court appointee.

Unlike some of Trump’s nominees, Bogren and Morrison had the backing of both their home-state senators.

Morrison campaigned for Republican presidential candidates Steve Forbes in 1996 and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2016.

She received a rating of “Well Qualified” from the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, its highest rating.

Morrison will fill a seat that’s been vacant since the Obama administration.

Trump also late Tuesday released a list of new intended judicial nominees, including Halil “Sul” Ozerden to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He’s currently serves as a U.S. district judge for the Southern District of Mississippi, and was appointed by George W. Bush.

(Writes through with Michigan district court nominee withdrawing and new nomination to appeals court.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick L. Gregory in Washington at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley in Washington at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com

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