On April 3, President Donald Trump (R) announced that he would nominate Judge Justin Walker to the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to succeed Judge Thomas Griffith. Griffith announced he would retire effective September 1. According to The Washington Post, Walker is the youngest nominee to the D.C. Circuit since 1983.
Walker has been a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky since October 2019. He was confirmed on a 50-41 vote. The American Bar Association (ABA) rated Walker not qualified by a substantial majority and qualified by a minority for the district court seat. The ABA rates federal judicial nominees and has done so since 1956. Under each administration except the George W. Bush and Trump administrations, the ABA was granted access to candidate information before the nomination.
Walker was born in 1982 in Louisville, Kentucky. He obtained a B.A., summa cum laude, in political science from Duke University in 2004. He earned a J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 2009. Before joining the Western District of Kentucky, he was an attorney in private practice and a law professor at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law. Walker was a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy from 2011 to 2012 and a law clerk to then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 2010 to 2011.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is one of 13 U.S. courts of appeal. They are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal courts. The court has 11 authorized judicial posts. Seven of the judges were appointed by Democratic presidents and four were nominated by Republican presidents. Currently, two of the judges were appointed by President Trump.
There is currently one open U.S. Court of Appeals vacancy, on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. President Trump said he would nominate Judge Cory Wilson to that seat. In addition to the upcoming vacancy following Griffith’s retirement, there is one other upcoming Court of Appeals vacancy. Judge Ed Carnes on the 11th Circuit is expected to assume senior status on June 30. Andrew Brasher has already been confirmed to succeed him.