On November 13, 2018, President Trump nominated Kenneth Lee to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for the seat previously held by Judge Stephen Reinhardt. The Senate did not act on Lee’s nomination before the end of the Congress, and on January 3, 2019, Lee’s nomination was returned to the President. On February 6, 2019, President Trump renominated Lee.
Lee’s nomination takes place against the backdrop of President Trump’s intense dissatisfaction with the Ninth Circuit. The President has repeatedly attacked the independence of the judiciary overall. But his ire towards the Ninth Circuit and specific judges in the circuit has been particularly vocal and vicious. The President has said the court is a “big thorn” in his side, and has called the court a “dangerous disgrace,” a “complete & total disaster,” and “out of control.” He has threatened to “put in a major complaint” about the court.
In light of this background, there can be no pretext that Kenneth Lee is being nominated because of his legal ability or to neutrally apply the law. Rather, he is being nominated to achieve specific ideological results, and to carry out the partisan agenda articulated by President Trump and vocal supporters such as Hugh Hewitt. Lee’s record provides strong evidence that he would do exactly that.
AFJ strongly opposes Lee’s confirmation.