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Feinstein on Ninth Circuit Nominee: ‘I will vote against Mr. Bress’

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

            Video of her remarks is available here.

            “First, by history and tradition, this is a California seat on the Ninth Circuit.

            The fact is that Mr. Bress is neither a California attorney nor a California resident. In fact, he’s not been a resident of the state in over a decade. He’s lived and practiced law in the Washington, D.C., area for almost his entire adult life.

            As California’s senators, Senator Harris and I know that the kind of experience and connection to California is really necessary for a Ninth Circuit judge to be effective on the bench.

            We know our state, we know our constituents and we know the challenges they face.

            That’s why the blue slip is so important. Honoring the blue slip ensures that the senators who understand and are accountable to their constituents have a say in judicial nominations for their home states.

            Our blue slips, Senator Harris’ and mine, were not returned. Ultimately that symbolizes our objections. I was therefore very disappointed that the White House ignored that and moved forward with Mr. Bress’ nomination.

            Senator Harris and I worked in good faith with the White House to find nominees acceptable to the president and to us.

            During our negotiations which took place, we informed the White House that we could support several other nominees who were in fact selected by the White House.

            Yet the White House and the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee have claimed we were at an impasse. That’s simply not true. For reasons still unknown to us, the White House abandoned our negotiations and nominated Mr. Bress for this seat instead.

            I’m very disappointed that Republican leadership decided to schedule a vote on Mr. Bress’ nomination given both of our objections to his nomination and our concerns about a lack of connection to our state.

            Next, I want to discuss what I mean by a lack of connection to our state.

            The White House has greatly exaggerated Mr. Bress’ California connections to justify their decision to move forward with a non-California nominee.

            I’ve studied Mr. Bress’ record extensively, and I’d like to run through some of what I have found:

  • Mr. Bress claims to spend a substantial amount of time working in his law firm’s San Francisco office. However, as recently as November 2018, Mr. Bress’ profile on the Kirkland & Ellis LLP website listed him as an attorney working exclusively in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office.

            His profile page likewise provided contact information – phone and fax – only for the Washington, D.C., office.

            Just before he was nominated, Mr. Bress’ Kirkland & Ellis profile was revised to list him as an attorney in both the Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, California offices of the firm.

  • In addition, according to a review conducted by my staff, every public legal filing signed by Mr. Bress lists his office as Washington, D.C. This includes legal filings submitted in California courts.
  • Mr. Bress has never had an oral argument before the Ninth Circuit. Never had an oral argument before the Ninth Circuit.
  • The chairman of the Judiciary Committee entered a letter into the record at Mr. Bress’ hearing identifying 26 cases in California courts that Mr. Bress 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 products liability lawsuits involving another single client, the air-conditioning manufacturer United Technologies Corporation. So, that’s two clients.

            This is hardly the wide breadth of California court experience that one would expect of a Ninth Circuit appointee.

  • Mr. Bress does not belong to any legal organizations in California, his children do not attend school in our state, he’s only voted once since high school in a California election and he does not have a California driver’s license.
  • Finally, Mr. Bress does not own any property in California outside of one share in a family business venture.

            These facts, along with Mr. Bress’ residency in the Washington D.C., area – he lives here, his family lives here – make clear to us that he’s not a Californian, nor is he suited for the Ninth Circuit.

            So, Madam President, this is something we have never experienced before and that is bringing a judge from one coast to put him in the Ninth Circuit on the other coast.

            Some of my Republican colleagues have cited past instances when an attorney living and practicing law in one state has been nominated and confirmed to a seat in another state. This is highly unusual.

            Republicans have only been able to provide examples of this occurring four times in the past 20 years – and in each case it was with the support of the home-state senators. This support is simply not here in this case. This is not the case with this nominee.

            California is a diverse and complex state.

            We have over 40 million people. It is the fifth largest economy in the world, and it makes up 14% of the U.S. economy. 53 Fortune 500 companies are based in our state.

            We have the largest ag industry in the country. We produce more manufacturing revenue than any other state and California technology companies produce 53% of all tech revenues in the United States.

            This vast and diverse nature of California’s people and economy means the Ninth Circuit regularly considers challenging and complex issues of fact and law.

            These cases require not only the sharpest legal minds, but lawyers and judges who know and understand the complexities facing the state of California.

            So, we have an important judge now coming in to the Ninth Circuit.

            One of our most critical tasks as senators is to ensure that lifetime appointments to the federal courts are well-qualified and well-suited to the seats to which they’ve been nominated.

            Home-state senators are a crucial part of this evaluation process, and you know this very well, Madam President, I’m so disappointed that the majority has disregarded this.

            This disregard of blue slips represents another breakdown of Senate traditions.

            It’s really, really very disturbing because one thing I’ve learned in over 20 years here is: what goes round, comes around. And by doing this it is a major violation of a precedent that this Senate has followed, I believe, to its absolute.

            I will vote against Mr. Bress’ confirmation and I urge all my colleagues to do the same.”