The United States Law Week

Trump Appeals Nominee Regrets Writings, Says Was Naïve (2)

March 13, 2019, 5:05 PMUpdated: March 13, 2019, 11:15 PM

Federal appeals court nominee Kenneth Lee regrets a number of controversial writings from his college years on race and harassment, telling a Senate committee that he was naïve and lacked maturity.

“When you’re young, you think you know everything and not only that, you think everyone else is wrong,” the Jenner & Block partner said at his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday. “Clearly that’s not the case as you get older. You realize you know very little when you’re young.”

Lee’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has come under fire from Democrats for dozens of writings, a number of which were published as an undergraduate at Cornell University in the mid 1990s.

The first generation South Korean immigrant wrote extensively in opposition to college affirmative action programs and other issues, including harassment and gender topics.

He’s expressed “extreme views,” according to Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, California’s two senators fighting Lee’s nomination.

Feinstein raised an article Lee wrote in college in which he said most people with AIDS were gay or drug users. Lee acknowledged the passage, saying it was a “misguided attempt” to defend federal AIDS policy.

“Frankly, looking at that now, 26 years later, I’m embarrassed by it,” Lee said.

It was Lee’s first public comments on the writings controversy that also include articles after he became an attorney.

Lee’s said he’s grown as a person and as a professional since his college years, pointing to his public service and pro-bono work.

Republicans pointed to supportive comments from colleagues about his character and professionalism.

Neomi Rao, another Trump nominee who came under fire for her writings on rape and other issues while an undergraduate at Yale, was confirmed on Wednesday to take the D.C. Circuit seat once held by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

She became the 36th of Donald Trump’s appellate nominees to win confirmation.

(Adds Rao confirmation, last two paragraphs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: John Crawley in Washington at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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