Daniel A. Bress, the only new addition to President Donald Trump’s latest list of nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, is a private attorney with no judicial experience. He is, however, a rising star with powerhouse law firm Kirkland & Ellis who’s made a name for himself representing corporate clients.
Bress was one of three nominees Trump said Jan. 30 that he plans to send to the Senate for the Ninth Circuit. The San Francisco-based court is a political flashpoint between the conservative White House and California’s two Democratic senators, one of whom is running for Trump’s job.
Dianne Feinstein, the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, and Kamala Harris, a Judiciary member and 2020 presidential candidate, both said they were “deeply disappointed” with the nominees, who also included Kenneth Kiyul Lee, and Daniel P. Collins.
Harris vowed in a tweet to oppose all appellate picks until “a fair process is in place” for selecting them.
In a statement, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, called all three nominees “highly qualified” and hoped that “they will receive wide bipartisan support.”
The Republican-led Senate didn’t act on Lee and Collins, also partners at large law firms, before their nominations expired last year, so their names were put forward again. Republicans have expanded their majority in the chamber, which has approved Trump judicial nominees at a fast clip.
Feinstein, according to a spokesperson last week, had been having constructive conversations with the White House on judicial vacancies. But the “White House’s decision to push these nominees fails to secure consensus” on a bipartisan basis, the two senators said.
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Bress graduated from the University of Virginia Law School in 2005 and clerked for both conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Fourth Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson.
Feinstein and Harris raised concerns about Bress because he now lives in Washington, D.C., rather than California, “is quite young and has no judicial experience,” they said in a press release.
Bress, who’s also taught part-time at the University of Virginia and Catholic University law schools, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment through his firm.
He has taught seminars on constitutional and statutory interpretation.
Bress has been interested in statutory interpretation since at least 2005, when he wrote a law review article concerning federal agencies and whether they should be considered to have an inherent power to reconsider their final decisions.
He wrote that agencies should only be considered to have that power “when that power is expressly provided in a statute, or when an agency has used its rulemaking powers to promulgate formal reconsideration provisions.”
Lee, a first generation South Korean immigrant, is a partner at Jenner & Block LLP, Los Angeles, and served as associate counsel to President George W. Bush.
Lee failed to disclose writings on controversial issues including affirmative action and voting rights, which expressed “extreme views” according to Feinstein and Harris.
Collins is a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP in Los Angeles. He’s served as an associate deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice, and argued 36 cases at the Ninth Circuit.
He clerked for conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Ninth Circuit Judge Dorothy W. Nelson.
The senators told the White House they couldn’t support Collins because of concerns about “his temperament and rigidity,” including his history of taking litigation positions in order to overturn precedent, they said.
Trump also announced the nominations of four nominees to district courts in California.
Patrick J. Bumatay, an openly gay assistant U.S. attorney, was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California after his nomination to the Ninth Circuit expired. He’s a member of the National Filipino American Lawyers Association.
Three district court nominees to the Central District of California were renominated after their initial nominations to the same courts expired.
Stanley Blumenfeld is a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court and clerked for Ninth Circuit Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall.
Jeremy B. Rosen is a partner at Horvitz & Levy LLP in Los Angeles, where he specializes in First Amendment cases. He clerked for Ninth Circuit Judge Ferdinand F. Fernandez.
Mark C. Scarsi is a partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCoy LLP, where he is managing partner of the firm’s Los Angeles office.
In contrast with the Ninth Circuit nominees, Harris and Feinstein “have had productive conversations about district court vacancies,” they said.
“We believe we have found a balanced compromise where we will be able to fill the vacancies and support a number of candidates,” the senators said. “That is how the process is supposed to work.”