No Federal Judges Need Apply to 9th Circuit

Sandra Segal Ikuta’s nomination Wednesday to the Ninth Circuit (see below) raises a question: What does President Bush have against the federal trial bench? So far his nominations to the Ninth Circuit have been Richard Clifton, Jay Bybee, Carolyn Kuhl, William Meyers, Carlos Bea, Consuelo Callahan, N. Randy Smith and, on Wednesday, Ikuda. Kuhl, Callahan and Bea had experience as state court judges only; the rest had no judicial experience at all prior to their nomination.

This isn’t to say that they won’t make good Ninth Circuit judges. But is there not one single experienced federal trial judge in the western states worthy of elevation?

It’s true that much of the current federal bench was appointed by President Clinton, and therefore may not be to Bush’s taste. But Bush has been putting his own trial judges on the bench for five years now. What would be wrong with, say, Jeffrey White, James Otero, Dana Sabraw, just to name a few Bush appointees in California?

If anyone’s got any theories, please hit the comments button and let us know.

Update: Further research indicates this pattern is not peculiar to Bush, but it is to the Ninth Circuit. Seven of Clinton’s first eight appointments to the Ninth Circuit had no federal trial court experience. However, four of Bush’s first eight appointees to the First, Second and Third circuits came from the U.S. district court bench.

— Scott Graham


4 Responses to “No Federal Judges Need Apply to 9th Circuit”

  1. DelVerSiSogna Says:

    Judge Real for SCOTUS!

  2. gustafm1000 Says:

    I think there are two reasons. First, the 9th Circuit nominations have been a huge political football for the entirety of Bush’s term. All of the West Coast Senators but one are Democrats and have blocked, filibustered, blue-slipped and delayed Bush’s picks. As a result, he hasn’t been able to build a very deep bench of conservative jurists and has to get politically connected nominees w/ vast work experience to have any hope of getting them through the Murray/Cantwell/Boxer cartell. The second reason is what you outlined above – most of the District Court judges are Clinton appointees (or Bush I or Reagan appointees and, thus, too old).

  3. Legal Pad » Blog Archive » Last Nominee to Ninth is No Surprise Says:

    […] And Smith’s nomination continues a trend noted on this blog: Bush skipping the federal bench in filling slots on the Ninth. […]

  4. MJB Says:

    Perhaps the president wants more ideological nominees for the 9th Circuit, and thinks that sitting trial judges are too grounded in the judicial system and not “true believers” like Bybee, Kuhl, or Myers.

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