When President Trump nominated Greg Katsas to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, I called the pick a home run. But before circling the bases, you have to get to first.
Katsas got to first base yesterday when the Senate confirmed him by a 50-48 vote. The tally suggests the usual (these days) straight party line vote. In fact, however, two Senators broke ranks — one from each party.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVa) voted to confirm Katsas. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La) voted against confirmation.
Katsas is a stellar selection. Indeed, I have suggested that he’s second only to Justice Gorsuch among Trump’s judicial picks.
A rock solid conservative, Katsas was executive editor of the Harvard Law Review, a Supreme Court clerk for Justice Thomas, and a high ranking attorney at the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration. Our friend Shannen Coffin discussed Katsas’ service during the Bush years here.
Katsas has argued Supreme Court cases as a government attorney and in private practice. He has also argued in every U.S. appeals court. In all, he has more argued than 75 appeals.
Under President Trump, Katsas served as deputy counsel to the president in the White House Counsel’s Office. This service was the basis for Sen. Kennedy’s “no” vote, on the theory that Katsas will have a conflict of interest in cases involving the president. However, during his confirmation hearing, Katsas provided a list of the issues he has worked on at the White House and promised to recuse himself from any cases involving his work as a government lawyer. Kennedy pointed to nothing in Katsas record to suggest he won’t honor that promise.
Katsas replaces another rock solid conservative, Judge Janice Rogers Brown. Thus, he will not change the ideological balance of the D.C. Circuit. However, at age 53, Katsas will likely be a conservative judicial star for decades on that court or, perhaps, a higher one.