Two nominees to a federal appeals court that has been openly criticized by President Donald Trump over rulings against his administration’s policies face senators Oct. 30 at their confirmation hearing.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will question Patrick Bumatay, an openly gay federal prosecutor, and Lawrence VanDyke, a deputy assistant U.S. attorney general, on their nominations to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Some of the most contentious legal disputes in recent years have gone through the California-based circuit, including litigation over Trump’s travel ban and, his asylum ban. He’s castigated it for being liberal, once tweeting that it was a “total disaster.”
Trump is seeking to reshape the federal courts with conservatives. So far, the Republican-led Senate has confirmed more than 150 of his nominees to district and circuit courts. He’s also seated two justices on the Supreme Court.
A Senate hearing for Bumatay has been a long time coming. Trump already nominated him to judicial posts on two other occasions: First to the Ninth Circuit and later to a federal district court in California. The Senate didn’t act on either one.
California’s two senators, Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the judiciary panel, and Kamala Harris, also a committee member and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, opposed Bumatay’s first Ninth Circuit nomination. The pair has tangled with the Trump White House over judicial nominations.
VanDyke oversees federal litigation involving natural resources and is a former solicitor general in both Montana and Nevada. An LGBT legal group Lambda Legal has pointed to an article he wrote putting homosexual “rights” in quotes. Senate Democrats have previously grilled nominees for similar past writings.
Like Bumatay, VanDyke has support from conservative groups.
The Ninth Circuit includes California, Arizona, Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, and Washington.
The Judiciary Committee also will question three other Trump nominees: Philip Halpern and Barbara Bailey Jongbloed, who are nominated to district court seats in New York and Connecticut, respectively, and Bernard Maurice Jones II for one in Oklahoma.
-- With assistance from Jordan Rubin and Patrick Gregory.