Daniel Collins on Tuesday became the second nominee in as many weeks to win confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a court President Donald Trump has sharply criticized over rulings against his policies.
The Senate approved the Munger, Tolles & Olson partner to the San Francisco-based court, 53 to 46, over the objections of his two home-state Democratic senators and others who view him as ideological and partisan.
Supporters of the Collins, appointment cite his qualifications as an appellate litigator who is familiar with the Ninth Circuit.
Collins is the 41st Trump appeals court nominee to be confirmed. Six have been appointed to the Ninth Circuit, including Kenneth Lee, who was confirmed last week.
Trump and his Republican Senate allies have moved aggressively to appoint conservatives to the judiciary.
Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein “offered to work with the White House to find a consensus nominee” to the Ninth Circuit but were refused, Harris said in a tweet.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a progressive organization that has opposed many Trump nominees, described Collins as an “ideological and partisan actor who will not serve as a fair and independent arbiter,” in a press release.
Collins “bears a long and indefensible record of aggressively restricting civil and human rights protections for women, vulnerable communities that interact with the justice system, and consumers left at the mercy of corporations that put profits over people,” the group said.
Collins authored an amicus brief supporting companies challenging the Affordable Care Act’s “contraceptive mandate,” in 2014’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.
But Mike Davis of the Article III Project, a conservative organization supporting Trump judicial nominees, touted Collins’ qualifications, in a tweet.
Those include Collins’s degree from Stanford Law School, his clerkship for the late, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and his work as a top appellate litigator, Davis said.
Collins argued 38 cases at the Ninth Circuit where his appointment fills a vacancy open since 2015. Two vacancies remain and Trump has nominated Kirkland & Ellis partner Daniel Bress to fill one of them. Bress will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
Trump has already “flipped” the Third Circuit to majority-Republican appointees, and could soon do the same at the Second Circuit. But he’s unlikely to flip the Ninth Circuit in the near future. It now has 16 Democratic-appointed judges and 11 tapped by Republicans.
Still, his appointees could provide dissenting voices that might moderate majority opinions. They can also write dissents that might encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision.