A Kentucky lawyer with a lengthy record of partisan writing was confirmed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday in a party-line Senate vote. John Bush will serve a lifetime appointment on the bench.
His new position on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is an important one; appeals courts are the end of the line for the vast majority of legal cases across the country. Right now, there are 21 judicial vacancies on Circuit Courts, with only six nominations pending — giving President Trump the opportunity to shape the judicial branch for years to come.
Bush’s blog posts, published under the pseudonym “G. Morris” on a personal blog titled “Elephants in the Bluegrass,” cover a range of far-right hot topics.
During the 2008 Presidential election, Bush blogged about Obama’s Kenyan heritage, writing, “Obama likes to claim that Americans should be their ‘brother’s keeper.’ The irony is that Obama has done next to nothing for his half-brother who lives in a hut in Kenya on less than $1 a month.”
In a 2008 post titled “The Legacy From Dr. King’s Dream That Liberals Ignore,” Bush voiced his disdain for the 1972 Supreme Court decision guaranteeing the right to abortion. “The two greatest tragedies in our country — slavery and abortion — relied on similar reasoning and activist justices at the U.S. Supreme Court, first in the Dred Scott decision, and later in Roe,” he wrote.
In 2011, Bush criticized the State Department’s change to passport applications to accommodate same-sex couples by asking for information about “parent 1” and “parent 2” instead of mother and father.
“It’s just like the government to decide it needs to decide something like which parent is number one or number two,” he wrote. “When that happens, both parents are subservient to the nanny state — more precisely, a nanny Secretary of State,” referring to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
And blogging from the Republican National Convention last year, Bush praised now-Attorney General Jeff Session’s speech, writing, “Time to roll with the changes. Time to roll with Trump.”
Judges traditionally remain publicly impartial about political issues. Bush has never held judicial office, and appeared to promise to stop posting upon his confirmation.
“Blogging is a political activity,” Bush said in June at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in June. “It is not appropriate to bring politics to the bench, and if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed, I will not bring politics to the bench.”
During the hearing, Senator Thom Tillis from North Carolina also asked Bush if he considered impartiality an aspiration or an expectation.
“It is an aspiration,” Bush said. “I would do my best to be impartial… Again, the blog posts, if I could do some of them over today, I would do them do them over.”
Chairman of the committee Chuck Grassley said Bush’s blog posts showed a “lack of judicial temperament,” but said he doesn’t believe they disqualify him.
Bush is a Harvard Law School graduate who was on President Ronald Reagan’s legal team during the Iran-Contra scandal. He clerked for a Fifth Circuit judge in the late 80s before starting at a Louisville law firm where he has remained for the past 27 years. He’s made contributions to Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and serves as President of the Louisville Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society.
Bush’s appointment is one of many Trump is expected to make to the federal court system, which has 21 vacancies thanks to Republican efforts to block confirmations during Obama’s presidency. At this point in Obama’s first term, there were only 15 vacancies.
Their delay tactics under President Obama curbed confirmations and led then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to change the Senate rules by eliminating the filibuster for judicial appointments, except for Supreme Court nominees, thus requiring only 51 votes — the number Bush received today.
Shawna Thomas, Alex Jaffe and Jesse Seidman contributed reporting.