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Feinstein on Ninth Circuit Nominee: ‘Bress is Not a California Attorney’

Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today spoke about her concerns with the nomination of Daniel Bress to fill a California seat on the Ninth Circuit despite his lack of ties to the state.


            Video of her remarks is available here.


            “I’d like to address my comments to the vote coming up on Daniel Bress. I think it’s a very important vote as these judge votes go. Put simply, I cannot support Mr. Bress’ nomination because he is not a California attorney and this is a California seat. He has lived and practiced law in Washington for most of his adult life.


            My staff has closely examined Mr. Bress’ record. They’ve analyzed his ties to California. I met with him to discuss my concerns. It’s clear from his record that Mr. Bress does not have the connection to California that is necessary to represent the state on the Ninth Circuit.


            This a very important seat for the largest state in the union and I think it’s a mistake to give it away.


            I’m disappointed that the White House nominated him over the objections of both Senator Harris and myself. In addition, it’s clear that Republicans consider this a California seat as they gave blue slips to both Senator Harris and myself. We would not have been given blue slips if there was a question about whether this was a California seat or not.


            I was also surprised that at Mr. Bress’ hearing it was said, “We could not find somebody that had a more California connection than Mr. Bress,” and the White House and the chairman “have waited eight months to try to find somebody.” Candidly, this just isn’t accurate.


            First, there are more than 170,000 attorneys in the state of California to choose from. It’s simply untrue – and not credible – to say that the White House couldn’t find someone with “a more California connection” than an out-of-state attorney based in Washington, D.C.


            Second, Senator Harris and I worked in good faith with the White House to find nominees acceptable to the president whom we could support. We identified two Republican candidates and suggested them to the White House. They were rejected.


            Then when the White House counsel reached out in January, we told him there were several other Republican nominees who were identified and selected by the White House that we would support.


            In fact, the White House asked us to support a specific nominee of their choosing, and both Senator Harris and I agreed. We were not at an impasse.


            For reasons still unknown to both of us, the White House ignored our accommodations and willingness to support several of their nominees and instead went forward and nominated Mr. Bress to this seat.


            Now, as to Mr. Bress’ ties to California, my Republican colleagues have made various arguments about whether Mr. Bress has sufficient ties to California.


            Many of those have been exaggerated or inaccurate. Let me straighten the record.


            It has been argued that Mr. Bress spends a substantial amount of time working in his law firm’s San Francisco office. However, as recently as November 2018, Mr. Bress’ law firm profile listed him as an attorney working exclusively in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office. His law firm also provided contact information only for the Washington, D.C., office.


            It was only after he was nominated that the law firm revised his profile to list him as an attorney both in Washington and San Francisco. In addition, Mr. Bress has never made an oral argument before the Ninth Circuit and every public legal filing signed by him lists his office as Washington, D.C. – including all legal filings submitted in California courts.


            Republicans also argued that Mr. Bress has had significant work in California, and they cited 26 cases in California courts that he has been involved in. However, according to Mr. Bress’ Senate Judiciary Questionnaire, 11 of these 26 cases were asbestos lawsuits for a single client, the chemical company BASF Catalyst.


            Another four cases were product liability lawsuits involving one single client, the air-conditioning manufacturer United Technologies Corporation. This is hardly the wide breadth of California court experience that one would expect of a Ninth Circuit nominee.


            Finally, my Republican colleagues argued Mr. Bress owns land in California. However, upon examination and when we questioned him about his property ownership this too appears misleading. Mr. Bress does not own any land in California. In fact, when we asked him about his property ownership we found that he owns one share of his family’s business venture.


            These are the facts. It’s not a debate about whether his views are within the legal mainstream or what his opinions are on various issues. This is a factual discussion about whether he is a California attorney. And the facts are clear. He is not.


            My state is home to over 40 million people. Our economy is the fifth largest in the world. We have three mega-ports, the largest ag industry in the country. The ports helped process more than $552 billion in imports that came through California last year.


            We share a border with Mexico where more than $200 million in trade goes through every day and our coastline is 1,100 miles long. In short, California is a diverse state with significant legal challenges that come up every day.


            But even if we were a small state that had fewer than 1 million people and one main industry driving our economy, as senators we have a right to demand that an individual being nominated to represent our state on the Circuit Court actually be a practicing lawyer based in our state.


            This is a departure from that. It should not happen. If it happens here, it’ll happen in other circuits. So I’m very disappointed. I’ve been here for over 20 years – this has never happened – that this practice has been thrown out by the White House. I very much regret it.”