Senate confirms Larsen to federal appeals court

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who made the short list for the vacant Supreme Court seat now held by Justice Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed to the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

The Senate confirmed Larsen by a vote of 60-38 with the support of eight Democrats: Sens. Tom Carper (Del.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Mark Warner (Va.).

Outside groups had raised concerns over whether Larsen would be an independent check on the executive branch.

Alliance for Justice pointed to a 2006 guest column in the Detroit News in which she argued that then-President George W. Bush had the authority to disregard a law Congress passed prohibiting the U.S. government from allowing torture.


“Either way, the president’s independent vision of what the Constitution requires is critical,” she wrote. “Denying the president a constitutional voice is the real threat to our system of separated powers.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) refused to support Larsen’s nomination when the Senate Judiciary Committee took a vote last month. Feinstein said she was concerned that the Judicial Crisis Network had spent $100,000 on ads supporting her nomination.

“When Justice Larsen was given the opportunity to disavow those ads or to publicly state she didn’t want this dark money, outside group working on her behalf, she declined to do so,” Feinstein said.

In a statement Wednesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called it “outrageous” and “ridiculous” that a minority member would suggest Larsen was responsible for outside groups running ads supporting her nomination.

“I find it interesting that my colleagues who are complaining about conservative groups don’t seem to have much concern for the groups on the left that are spending money in opposition to nominees,” he said.

Grassley singled out the Alliance for Justice, claiming it often makes incendiary and false criticisms of judicial nominees in its reports.

The Judicial Crisis Network praised the Senate for confirming Larsen Wednesday, calling her “an exceedingly well-qualified, accomplished judge.”

“Justice Larsen brings with her a sterling background, and an unwavering commitment to the rule of law,” Carrie Severino, the group’s chief counsel and policy director, said in a statement. “Hopefully, this is just the beginning of many more confirmations of President Trump’s excellent judicial nominees.”

Alliance for Justice, meanwhile, called Larsen another “troublesome” judge.

“Joan Larsen’s confirmation makes it two down, two to go in Mitch McConnell’s irresponsible race to confirm four circuit court nominees in a single week,” Nan Aron, the group’s president, said in a statement, referring to the Senate majority leader.

“Larsen is probably one of the most troublesome federal judges President Trump has given us, because she believes presidents have the right to ignore the law if they think there’s a risk to national security. That kind of power would be terrifying in the hands of Donald Trump.”

Larsen’s confirmation comes in the midst of Republican threats to change the Senate rules and shorten the amount of debate time needed to confirm judicial nominees.

Tags Bill Nelson Chuck Grassley Debbie Stabenow Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Gary Peters Heidi Heitkamp Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin Mark Warner Mitch McConnell Tom Carper
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