Law & the Courts

Senate Confirms Steven Menashi, Securing Second Circuit Conservative Majority

(Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

The Senate voted to confirm Steven Menashi to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday afternoon, making Menashi the 46th circuit judge appointed by President Trump, and flipping the Second Circuit to a 7-6 Republican-appointed majority.

Menashi is the fifth Trump appointee to the Second Circuit, following the confirmation of William Nardini last week.

A White House lawyer who has worked on education and immigration policy, Menashi underwent a tough confirmation process in which Democrats decried his past espousing of conservative opinions and complained he was not forthright enough in answering questions.

MSNBC personality Rachel Maddow even suggested that Menashi, who is Jewish, is a white nationalist, citing a 2010 article he wrote for the University of Pennsylvania international law journal in which he defended Israel’s right to extend “right of return” citizenship exclusively to Jews, which Maddow called “a high-brow argument for racial purity.”

During questioning, Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) said that Menashi had faced “unusually personal” and “vicious” attacks.

The American Bar Association (ABA), which evaluates federal judicial nominees, rated Menashi as “Well Qualified,” its highest mark.

“Mr. Menashi is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Stanford University Law School, he’s accrued an impressive record in private practice and earned clerkships on the D.C. Circuit and with Justice [Samuel] Alito,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said of Menashi this week. “I hope my colleagues will join me in advancing each of these nominations.”

Menashi was approved in a 51-41 vote, as Democrats were joined in dissent by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine.

The Second Circuit is based in New York, but Menashi’s confirmation drew criticism from both New York senators. Following the vote, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took to Twitter to express his disgust at the decision.

Kristen Gillibrand also voted no, calling Menashi “one of the worst judicial nominees to be put forth by President Trump.”

Menashi’s confirmation marks the second major court flip for Trump, who previously flipped the Third Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and the Virgin Islands. The California-based Ninth Circuit could also be flipped to a conservative majority in the coming months. Virtually all federal appeals end at circuit courts.

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