The nation’s largest appeals court could as early as this week have more judges appointed by President Donald Trump than any other federal circuit.
Kirkland & Ellis partner Daniel Bress is poised to become the seventh Trump selection to join the San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which the chief executive has castigated for being liberal and for ruling against his immigration and other policies.
The Senate approved, 50 to 42, a procedural motion July 8 to end debate on his nomination and clear the way for a confirmation vote in coming days.
With each new appointment, Trump gets closer to flipping the court to a majority of judges appointed by Republican presidents.
Bress has been opposed by Democrats led by California’s two senators, Dianne Feinstein and 2020 presidential candidate Kamala Harris. They said his ties to California are insufficient to merit a lifetime appeals court seat and warned that his confirmation would “open the door” to the appointment of circuit nominees elsewhere with little to no local connections.
“It’s clear from his record that Mr. Bress does not have the connection to California that is necessary to represent the state on the Ninth Circuit,” Feinstein said at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting last month. “This a very important seat for the largest state in the union and I think it’s a mistake to give it away.”
Bress was born in Hollister, Calif., and worked as an associate at Munger, Tolles & Olson in San Francisco from 2007-08, but has since worked primarily in Washington.
Republicans looked at the Democrats’ complaint, but said that Bress had sufficient links to the state. He’s expected to easily win confirmation in the GOP-controlled chamber.
Trump’s judicial confirmation streak is a high point of his term so far for him and Republicans. He’s made good on a campaign promise to stock the judiciary with younger conservatives, appointing 41 judges to appeals courts, 80 to district courts, and Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
The Ninth Circuit is by far the largest appeals court in the country, with 29 active judgeships. There are two vacancies, one of which is earmarked for Bress, who clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. There also will be two openings after that, with a duo of judges announcing plans to turn over their seats by taking senior status.
Trump’s getting closer to flipping the Ninth Circuit to a majority of judges appointed by Republican presidents. Of the 27 current Ninth Circuit judges, 16 were appointed by Democrats and 11 by Republicans.
Still, the impact of his appointments can be felt in a narrow majority. Additional Republican appointees, for instance, could moderate majority opinions or write dissents that may prompt review from the Supreme Court.
Also, it’s more likely that randomly drawn en banc sittings—a larger group of judges that rehears some cases decided by a three-judge panel of the same court—will be majority Republican. En banc is the last possible stop before the Supreme Court.
Trump, who’s appointed six judges to the Ohio-based Sixth Circuit, already has flipped the Third Circuit, which encompasses New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
The Ninth Circuit includes California, Arizona, Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, and Washington.
With assistance from Patrick Gregory
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(Updates with cloture vote in paragraph 3. )