Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris refused to question a nominee for one of California’s seats on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday, citing the nominee’s out-of-state residency as the grounds for her opposition.
The nominee, Daniel Bress, has lived in the Washington, D.C., area for over a decade. Harris has been accommodating of nominees tapped for California courts after an extended absence from the state in the past, however.
“Because the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding this hearing over the objections of both California senators, and because Mr. Bress has lived and practiced law in the D.C. area for roughly the last decade, I do not want to legitimize the process by asking questions of the nominee, talented though he may be,” Harris said during a Wednesday sitting of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But Harris struck a different note in December 2014, when she participated in a confirmation hearing for California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger. Like Bress, Kruger is a California native who practiced law in Washington, D.C., for over a decade before her appointment to the state Supreme Court. Kruger’s extended absence from the state was a primary feature of the opposition to her nomination.
In California, judges are nominated by the governor and confirmed by a three-member panel called the Commission on Judicial Appointments. Harris sat on that panel in her capacity as state attorney general. During Kruger’s confirmation hearing, Harris did not raise the residency issue, other than to ask Kruger what most excited her about returning to California, according to The Sacramento Bee. Harris aides did not answer multiple press inquiries.
Bress has practiced in the Washington offices of Kirkland & Ellis LLP since 2008. A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, Bress clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia before entering private practice. He has been a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers group with close ties to the Trump administration, since 2003, according to a questionnaire he submitted to the Judiciary Committee.
If confirmed, Bress will succeed Judge Alex Kozinski, who left the federal bench in December 2017 amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
Speaking at the beginning of Wednesday’s hearing, Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham claimed the panel delayed consideration of the Bress nomination in an attempt to reach a compromise with California’s senators. Those discussions proved fruitless, Graham said.
“Senator Harris is never going to vote for anybody nominated by Trump — period,” Graham said. He added that the California Democrats were productive partners where trial court nominees are concerned.
“The politics of the moment are such that at the circuit court level, we’re at impasse,” Graham said.
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