The U.S. Senate confirmed nominee Justin Walker to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. Overall, the Senate has confirmed 157 of President Trump’s Article III judicial nominees—two Supreme Court justices, 43 appellate court judges, 110 district court judges, and two U.S. Court of International Trade judges—since January 2017. At the end of the 115th Congress in January 2019, the Senate had confirmed 85 of the president’s judicial nominees.
The Senate confirmed Walker with a vote of 50-41, with only Republican senators voting “yea.” Forty Democratic senators and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine voted against Walker’s nomination. Nine senators did not vote.
The American Bar Association (ABA) rated Walker not qualified by a majority and qualified by a minority for the position. The ABA’s Committee on the Federal Judiciary conducts a background check of potential federal judicial nominees and provides a not qualified, qualified, or well qualified rating. Historically, the president has consulted with the ABA on judicial nominee prospects.
In a letter to Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), the ABA said Walker did not “have the requisite trial or litigation experience or its equivalent” for the position. The letter said the committee did “not have any questions about Mr. Walker’s temperament or integrity.”
In a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 31, Sens. Graham and Feinstein asked Walker about the rating. Walker said, “I can analyze the kind of complex legal questions judges do. I would encourage you not to just take my word for it but the word of 200 litigators from my local community that I have the temperament, background and experience.”
Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R) said Walker would “come to the federal district court well prepared to deal with in many ways the most difficult part of the job—dealing with dispositive motions.”
The United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky is one of 94 U.S. District Courts. They are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system. After Walker receives his judicial commission and takes his oath, the court will have no vacancies, three Republican-appointed judges, and two Democrat-appointed judges.