A San Diego federal prosecutor was confirmed by the Senate to a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In the recent 53-40 vote, openly-gay Patrick Bumatay became the 49th circuit appointee to be confirmed under the Trump administration, part of a steady drive by Republicans to remake the federal bench with conservative jurists reports Kristina Davis for the San Diego Union Tribune.
It is an especially sweet victory for the administration given the 9th Circuit’s liberal lean, which has made it a prime spot for the president’s foes to challenge his policies. President Donald Trump has often complained about being treated unfairly by the nation’s largest appellate court, calling it a “big thorn in our side” and “out of control.”
The confirmation comes despite a lack of support from Bumatay’s home state senators, Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.
Much of the criticism has centered on Bumatay’s lack of experience in appellate matters. In a written questionnaire, he acknowledged arguing twice in the 9th Circuit and filing about a dozen motions or legal briefings in appellate court. Bumatay, 41, also clerked for an appellate judge in the 10th Circuit.
The criticism became more political just before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation vote three weeks ago. Feinstein, the committee’s ranking chair, said she was dismayed to learn through Bumatay’s written answers that he had worked on Trump administration policies that separated migrant families at the border.
Bumatay wrote that during a detail to Washington as counselor to the attorney general from February 2018 to March 2019, he was focused on “combating the opioid crisis, strengthening efforts against transnational organized crime, and prison reform and inmate reentry initiatives,” as well as oversight of several federal law enforcement agencies.
Because of his experience with criminal immigration enforcement as a prosecutor in San Diego, he said he was called upon to consult on an April 2018 memorandum to federal prosecutors outlining a zero-tolerance policy for misdemeanor illegal entry cases along the southwest border.
The policy was hastily rolled out soon after, without the ability for various law enforcement and child welfare agencies to track separated parents and children, nor the ability to reunite them when the adults’ criminal cases were closed. The policy was later called back by Trump after public backlash over the separations. A San Diego federal judge then ordered the government to facilitate the reunification of thousands of families.
Bumatay is the son of Filipino immigrants, who came to the U.S. in the 1970s and established themselves as physicians.
Bumatay is openly gay, and during testimony to the Senate Judicial Committee he introduced his husband, with whom he is raising twin daughters.
He is Ivy League educated, graduating from Yale University and Harvard Law School.
He has worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego since 2012, mostly prosecuting cross-border drug- and human-smuggling cases.
During special details to Washington, he also helped support the nominations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
He is a member of the conservative Federalist Society, which promotes an originalist approach to the Constitution, meaning that it should be read as the founding fathers meant it at the time it was ratified.
In March 2017 a colleague at the U.S. Attorney’s Office asked Bumatay if he was interested in being considered for a judicial vacancy in San Diego, and Bumatay passed along his resume with the understanding it would be going to the White House, according to Bumatay’s written answers. A few months later, a Justice Department colleague asked if he was interested in a seat on the 9th Circuit, and Bumatay said yes. He was interviewed by the White House a week later.
Bumatay is replacing Judge Carlos Bea, who will step away from full-time duties and go on senior status. While the court is based in San Francisco, Bumatay is expected to maintain chambers in San Diego, the 9th Circuit said Tuesday.
Another 9th Circuit nominee, Lawrence VanDyke, is expected to be voted on by the Senate on Wednesday. The former Nevada solicitor general was given a rare “not qualified” rating by the American Bar Association.