June 18, 2020

Feinstein Statement on D.C. Circuit Court Nominee Justin Walker

Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today highlighted concerns with Judge Justin Walker, President Trump’s nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals:

“There are four main reasons for my opposition, and I’d like to address each.

First, Judge Walker does not have the experience we would expect of a nominee to the D.C. Circuit, which is considered the second most powerful court in the nation.

Judge Walker was confirmed to the Western District of Kentucky on October 24, 2019. He has just seven months of experience as a sitting federal district court judge.

Moreover, as Judge Walker disclosed in the questionnaire he submitted to the Judiciary Committee, in those seven months he has presided over no bench or jury trials.

Although appellate judges don’t preside over jury selection, sentencing or decisions on the admissibility of evidence, they are regularly called upon to examine the decisions of district court judges on these and other matters.

In light of that, Judge Walker’s lack of trial experience should alone be a bar to his elevation to the circuit.    

Second, I have serious concerns about Judge Walker’s views on executive power and agency independence.

Questions around these issues frequently come before the D.C. Circuit, and so Judge Walker’s views are highly relevant to his nomination.

Judge Walker has argued against the independence of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, going so far as to claim that the FBI Director should be an “agent” of the President.

These views are troubling in the abstract. But they are even more troubling now, with an administration that too often views the Department of Justice as a political arm of the presidency.

Judge Walker has also argued that federal agencies have too much power when it comes to protecting the environment, consumers and the workplace.

This is an especially troubling viewpoint at a time when we need agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – commonly known as OSHA – to protect the health and safety of American workers who have continued working during the COVID-19 pandemic or will be returning to their jobs.

Judge Walker’s views on the ability of federal agencies to protect Americans are particularly relevant to the D.C. Circuit, which hears critical cases surrounding workplace and environmental safeguards.

Third, Judge Walker has been an ardent opponent of the Affordable Care Act.

He has called the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the ACA ‘indefensible’ and ‘catastrophic.’ And he praised then Judge Brett Kavanaugh for providing a ‘roadmap’ by which the court could strike down the ACA.

I simply cannot support a nominee who would put at risk the health care of tens of millions of Americans, including those with preexisting conditions who might well lose coverage without the ACA’s protections.

And finally, I have concerns that Judge Walker does not have the temperament required of a federal judge.

In March of this year, when he was formally sworn in to the Western District of Kentucky, Judge Walker made a number of overtly political remarks.

He attacked the American Bar Association, stating that ‘although we celebrate today, we cannot take for granted tomorrow or we will lose our courts and our country to critics who call us terrifying and who describe us as deplorable.’

And he said that ‘in Brett Kavanaugh’s America, we will not surrender while you wage war on our work or our cause or our hope or our dream.’

These remarks raise questions as to whether Judge Walker can remain impartial and set aside political leanings.

For all of these reasons, I will vote against Judge Walker’s nomination, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”

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