Kyle Duncan, President Trump’s nominee for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday (along with Justice David Stras, a nominee for the Eighth Circuit about whom more in another post). I watched a portion of the proceedings and found both nominees to be excellent. You can watch here and judge for yourself.
Sen. John Kennedy of Duncan’s home state of Louisiana has been critical of Duncan’s nomination, though not of Duncan himself. As I discussed here, Kennedy’s concern is that Duncan practices law in Washington, D.C., not in Louisiana. Duncan is from Louisiana and has strong ties to the state, but is not as strongly connected to the state’s legal community as others the president could have nominated (e.g., a Louisiana judge).
At the hearing, Sen. Kennedy expressed this concern candidly and reasonably. He asked (at around the 1:22 mark) what he should say to well qualified candidates for the court of appeals who call him and ask why, instead of picking them, the president picked someone in Washington, D.C.
Duncan’s answer was strong and, I hope, satisfies the Senator (even if not the candidates who called him). After citing his connections to Louisiana, Duncan explained to Kennedy (and to Sen. Jeff Flake in a follow up) that he spent a prime part of his legal career, and staked his reputation as a lawyer, defending Louisiana’s interests and its laws in tough cases where they were challenged. He mentioned Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51 (2011). Duncan was referring to his service as appellate chief of the Louisiana Department of Justice.
Duncan could not complete his answer because Kennedy was running out of time under the “five minute” rule, and I couldn’t tell what Kennedy thought of the response. I hope it satisfies the Senator. Duncan showed that he has experience defending Louisiana’s interests that makes him an outstanding candidate, from a Louisiana perspective, to serve on the Fifth Circuit.
UPDATE: Duncan has, indeed, satisfied Kennedy. The Senator says he will vote to confirm. He stated:
After hearing his testimony and watching him gracefully handle the scrutiny of a public hearing, I am confident that Kyle Duncan will be a welcome addition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
I plan to vote in favor of him and look forward to welcoming him home to Louisiana.
I think this means that Kyle Duncan will be confirmed.
Congratulations to Duncan for persuading Sen. Kennedy, and credit to the Senator for keeping an open mind and making the right call.