US Senate confirms Montana law professor as Biden’s latest 9th Circuit judge

  • Anthony Johnstone is Biden’s seventh contender for the court
  • The confirmation comes as Senate Democrats struggle to move some judges forward

(Reuters) – The US Senate on Monday voted 49-45 to confirm law professor Anthony Johnstone on the US Circuit Ninth Circuit, making him President Joe Biden’s seventh representative on that court.

Johnstone, who taught at the University of Montana and was a former state attorney, was confirmed as Montana’s only seat on the District Court, which also includes eight other western states.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer praised Johnstone in the Senate Monday, citing a letter from former members of the Montana Supreme Court who called him “the finest and most respected legal scholar in the state of Montana.”

Johnstone won the support of Democratic Montana Sen. Jon Tester, but met skepticism from Republican Steve Daines, who criticized the candidate’s 2nd Amendment record. Johnstone said at a Senate hearing in October that he would follow recent US Supreme Court rulings extending gun rights.

In the past, judge candidates have required so-called “blue slips,” representing approval from their home state senators, in order to be considered for confirmation. However, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee under the Trump administration ended this practice for appellate court candidates.

The tradition is still maintained for district judges. Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith said in April that she would not support Biden’s selection of Scott Colom for a district judge in her state, likely blocking the local attorney general’s nomination.

Health concerns have kept Senate Judiciary Committee member Dianne Feinstein away from Washington since March, causing ongoing difficulties for Senate Democrats trying to advance Biden’s nominee for the judiciary. Without them, the panel doesn’t have enough votes to put judges in the Senate without Republican support.

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Schumer, the chamber’s top Democrat, has attempted to temporarily replace Feinstein on the committee with Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin. But Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, said his party will block any efforts to get the Democrats confirmed judges faster.

Schumer said Monday that the Senate will accept several other judge nominees this week.

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Jacqueline Thomsen

Thomson Reuters

Based in Washington, DC, Jacqueline Thomsen reports on legal news related to politics, the courts and the advocacy. Follow her on Twitter @jacq_thomsen and email her at [email protected].


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