A conservative lawyer who defended Kentucky’s abortion restrictions is a potential judicial pick by President Joe Biden, a scenario that stunned progressives reeling from the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn its Roe v. Wade precedent.
The White House informed Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) of plans to nominate former Kentucky Solicitor General Chad Meredith to a district court in the state, a spokesman for the lawmaker said. Yarmuth, in a statement, said he “strongly opposed” such a move.
Progressives recoiled at the news, first reported by The Courier-Journal in Louisville, that Biden would consider tapping a litigator who fought to enforce abortion restrictions just a week after the high court conservative majority decision wiped out the constitutional right to abortion.
Yarmuth suggested Meredith’s potential nomination is part of a deal between the White House and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to get more Biden judicial nominees confirmed if Republicans win enough seats in the midterm elections to retake control of the Senate.
“Given that a judicial position isn’t currently open on the Eastern District Court, it’s clear that this is part of some larger deal on judicial nominations between the President and Mitch McConnell,” Yarmuth said in a statement. Typically, judges vacate their seat or announce plans to do so before a nomination is announced.
The White House didn’t immediately provide a comment. A McConnell spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Meredith, who currently holds an of counsel position with Squire Patton Boggs, also didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Brian Fallon, executive director of the progressive judicial advocacy group Demand Justice, expressed frustration with the White House.
“At this time when abortion rights are under assault, there’s no deal worth cutting that would elevate another anti-abortion rights extremist to the federal courts,” Fallon said in a statement.
Former Republican National Committee communication’s director Doug Heye suggested on Twitter that nominating Meredith seemed to be “standard negotiations for nominations” and could mean Biden gets more judges appointed. “In other words, a win for both,” he said.
Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law school professor who tracks nominations, was “dubious” that McConnell would do much to help Biden’s judicial efforts for one Kentucky district court vacancy. A Meredith nomination could also be in exchange for filling US attorney seats in Kentucky, Tobias suggested.
Meredith, a Federalist Society contributor and former clerk for conservative federal judges, spent time in the last three years defending Kentucky’s anti-abortion restrictions and as legal counsel for former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R). Bevin came under fire for a late-term rush of pardons that critics claimed were motivated by politics.
As Kentucky solicitor general, Meredith was the legal point person in Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s winning battle to limit Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) executive authority and repeal more than 800 pages of executive orders to address Covid spread.
“Is the governor powerless to address Covid-19? No. Can he do whatever he wants? No,” said Meredith, then Kentucky solicitor general for Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a McConnell protege. The governor, he said, “he’s lost, to my knowledge, every time in federal court. And the world has gone on and the sky is not falling.”