Trump to nominate Clarence Thomas protege to key appeals court post

Trump to nominate Clarence Thomas protege to key appeals court post
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President Trump has decided to nominate one of his key White House lawyers, Gregory Katsas, to a job on the influential appeals court in Washington, putting forward a conservative who once clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas but also is respected by Democrats.

Katsas is the highest-profile judicial nomination made by Trump since the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch earlier this year, and the nomination sets up a fall confirmation hearing for a job on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Katsas has served as Trump’s deputy White House counsel, and before that he worked as a private lawyer at the firm Jones Day. Over his career, he has argued more than 70 appeals cases in federal courts ranging from the Supreme Court to district courts. 

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Earlier in his career, he worked as a clerk for both Thomas and appeals court judge Edward Becker and as a leader in the Justice Department's civil rights division. He also was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Katsas has friends on both sides of the political aisle, and accolades began pouring in as soon as word of his nomination surfaced.

“I have known Greg Katsas for nearly 30 years and he is among the most honest, fair, humble and intelligent people I have ever met,” said Leonard Leo, an outsider adviser to Trump and the executive vice president of the Federalist Society. "He understands the awesome responsibility associated with wearing a judicial robe and I have no doubt that he will always place the search for truth, fairness and justice first.” 

Katsas was part of a slate of 16 judicial nominations announced by Trump on Thursday that included two other appeals court nominees: Oregon Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Wesley was named to the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and Elizabeth “Lisa” Branch was named to the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Trump also tapped Matthew Spencer Petersen, a commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, to be a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Other nominees included R. Stan Baker to be a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia; Jeffrey Beaverstock to be a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama; John Broomes to be a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas; Walter Counts to be a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas; Rebecca Grady Jennings to be a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Matthew Kacsmaryk to be a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas and Emily Marks to be a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

But the signs were immediate that Katsas’s nomination was the prize announcement of the day.

Within seconds of the White House press release, a website popped up at http://confirmkatsas.com making a case for Senate approval.

And numerous allies of the president began talking up Katsas's qualifications and the support on both sides of the political aisle for the lawyer, who was was confirmed by a Democratic Senate in 2008 for a job in the Justice Department. 

"In addition to being an exceptionally well-qualified nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court, Greg Katsas is one of the kindest and most humble people I know," said Carrie Severino, the chief counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network, which helps lobby for conservative judges. "As a widely-respected Supreme Court advocate with more than twenty years of experience in government and private practice, Katsas has shown he will honor the Constitution and fairly apply the law.”

--This report was updated at 11:00 a.m.