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New York Pick Among Four Confirmed for District Court Seats (1)

Feb. 12, 2020, 5:59 PMUpdated: Feb. 12, 2020, 6:23 PM

The U.S. Senate confirmed four of President Donald Trump’s nominees for federal district courts in Alaska, Missouri, Illinois, and New York, adding to the president’s efforts to reshape the federal judiciary.

Action by the Republican-led Senate brought Trump’s total confirmed district court judges to 137. They follow the confirmation of Andrew Brasher on Tuesday to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which raised the total of Trump appointees to those courts to 51. Already more than a quarter of the judges at that level were tapped by Trump.

The newly confirmed district court appointees are Joshua M. Kindred, to the District of Alaska; Matthew Thomas Schelp, to the Eastern District of Missouri; John Fitzgerald Kness, to the Northern District of Illinois; and Philip M. Halpern, to the Southern District of New York.

Three more district court nominees breezed through their Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings.

The district court nominees at the hearing were: BakerHostetler partner Drew Tipton, to the Southern District of Texas; Bradley Arant Boult Cummings partner Anna Manasco, to Northern District of Alabama; and Florida state appeals court Judge John Leonard Badalamenti, to the the Middle District of Florida.

Each of the nominees agreed that Brown v. Board of Education, a 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision that struck school segregation as unconstitutional, was correctly decided, in response to a question posed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Blumenthal regularly asks that question at confirmation hearings, and a number of earlier Trump nominees refused to say whether Brown was rightly decided. They cited Canon 3A(6) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which states that a “judge should not make public comment on the merits of a matter pending or impending in any court,” with exceptions.

It was possible, however, that they were trying to avoid being trapped for follow-up questions about hot-button decisions such as Roe v. Wade, which established abortion as a constitutional right.

But now its common for them to respond that Brown was correctly decided. The answers started to change after the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said refusal to answer the question sent a “dangerous signal” to Americans that “Brown could someday be overturned and that our nation could return to the disgraceful days of racial segregation.”

The nominees also said they would not insert their opinion into their decisions, or be “activist judges,” in response to a question by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Cruz also regularly asks that question of nominees to test their conservative resolve.

(Updates throughout with background on nominees, details from hearing. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at; John Crawley at

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