Senate confirms first federal judicial nominee in 2019 without support from home-state senators

The U.S. Senate confirmed Eric D. Miller’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on a recorded vote of 53 – 46. The vote, which took place on February 26, 2019, was the first circuit court judge confirmation to occur without blue slip approval from home-state senators.
 
A blue slip is a piece of paper a home-state senator returns to the Senate Judiciary Committee chair to express support for a federal judicial nominee. Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) decided not to require blue slip approval for federal judicial nominees to the U.S. circuit courts of appeals.
 
Home-state Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wa.) said on the Senate floor, “Confirming this Ninth Circuit court nominee without the consent or true input of both home-state senators, and after a sham hearing, would be a dangerous first for this Senate.” Murray referred to Miller’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on October 24, 2018, which took place during a congressional recess. Two Republican senators attended the meeting. No Democratic senators were present.
 
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wa.) also spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to the nomination. She criticized the confirmation process, including the October 24 committee hearing. “Confirming Mr. Miller without a full vetting by both Democrats and Republicans is the wrong way to proceed on a lifetime appointment,” she said. Cantwell also said she opposed Miller’s confirmation because he had “spent much of his career fighting against the interest of tribal governments and tribal sovereignty.”
 
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) supported Miller’s nomination, saying, “All in all, his classmates, many of whom have also been his colleagues over the years, say that Mr. Miller is, ‘extraordinarily well-qualified’ to serve as a federal judge.”
 
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Murray and Cantwell in 2018, when he was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley wrote, “Miller appears to be a highly qualified and well-regarded nominee. … I understand that both of you oppose Mr. Miller’s nomination, but you have not expressed any substantive reasons for your opposition.”
 
President Donald Trump (R) nominated Miller to the court on July 13, 2018, to replace Richard Tallman, who had assumed senior status in March 2018. Miller will join the court upon receiving his judicial commission and taking his judicial oath.
 
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, headquartered in San Francisco, California, currently has 23 active judges of 29 active judicial posts. Sixteen of the court’s current judges were appointed by Democratic presidents.
 
Miller received a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard University and a J.D., with highest honors, from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was inducted into the Order of the Coif. He also served as a topics and comments editor of the University of Chicago Law Review.
 
After completing his legal studies, Miller clerked for  Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court of the United States and for the Hon. Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. From 2012 to 2019, he was a partner at the Seattle-based law office of Perkins Coie LLP. He previously held positions in the U.S. Department of Justice and on the Federal Communications Commission.
 
The Senate has confirmed 86 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—53 district court judges, 31 appeals court judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.



About the author

Sara Reynolds

Sara Reynolds is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at sara.reynolds@ballotpedia.org

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