Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Ninth Circuit Transformation Underway

Yesterday the Senate confirmed President Trump’s nomination of Kenneth Kiyul Lee to the Ninth Circuit. The vote was 52-45, entirely along partisan lines.

One added delight in Lee’s confirmation is that Lee will be filling the seat held for decades (from 1979 until last year) by arch-activist Stephen Reinhardt.

Up soon for a floor vote—next week, I hope—should be Ninth Circuit nominee Daniel P. Collins. [Update (3 p.m.): Cloture has been filed on the Collins nomination, so it should be voted on next week.] Collins would fill the seat long held by Harry Pregerson, the Ninth Circuit judge with the strongest claim to rival Reinhardt in lawless willfulness.

The appointments of Lee and Collins would give the Ninth Circuit 11 Republican appointees versus 16 Democratic appointees, with two remaining vacancies. At the start of the Trump administration, the Ninth Circuit had 19 Democratic appointees, only 6 Republican appointees, and four vacancies.

Daniel Bress has already been nominated to one of the vacancies (Alex Kozinski’s former seat). I hope that he receives his committee hearing very soon. [Update (3:20 p.m.): The hearing on the Bress nomination will take place next Wednesday.]

The other opening is for the putative Oregon seat vacated by the excellent Diarmuid O’Scannlain. A smear campaign somehow defeated Ryan Bounds’s nomination to this seat. I understand that Bounds will not be renominated.

If and when these vacancies are filled, the Ninth Circuit will have 13 Republican appointees to go with its 16 Democratic appointees.

Eight of the 16 Democratic appointees are eligible to take senior status, and a ninth soon will be, but there is no particular reason to expect any of them to elect that option.


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