Trump Nominee Porter Denies Opposing Sotomayor Confirmation


• Accused of co-founding anti-Sotomayor group in 2009
• Says involvement limited to 15-second phone call


Federal appeals court nominee David Porter faced fierce criticism from Democrats at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing June 6.

Porter denied Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) claim that he co-founded an organization to oppose the confirmation of then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Feinstein, the committee’s ranking member, also highlighted Porter’s failure to gain a “blue slip” indicating the approval of home-state Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.). Casey has described Porter as “far outside the mainstream,” and took aim at the nominee in a series of tweets the day of the hearing.

But Republicans supported Porter at the hearing, indicating that he will likely be confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Appeals court nominees Michael B. Brennan and David Stras were both confirmed despite lacking blue slips.

President Donald Trump nominated Porter, a shareholder at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, Pittsburgh, in April.

The hearing came the same day as the Senate’s confirmation of Annemarie Carney Axon to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, by a vote of 83-11.

Axon will leave her role as a member of Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt LLC, Birmingham, Ala., where her practice is “devoted entirely to litigation” according to her firm bio.

15 Seconds?

Porter has been a “leader in the right wing strategy to stack the federal courts” with like-minded judges, and he helped co-found the Pennsylvania Judicial Network in 2009, Feinstein said.

Porter said his interaction with the anti-Sotomayor organization was limited to a 15-second phone call.

On that call, he spoke with someone at the conservative Judicial Crisis Network and agreed to discuss efforts to start the PJN in a future call that he never joined, Porter said.

Porter acknowledged that his name appeared in a letter associated with the group, but said he didn’t authorize having his name added.

The nominee said he’s never been involved in opposing any nomination to the federal bench.

However, JCN chief counsel and policy director Carrie Severino recently credited Porter with opposing Sotomayor.

“Porter was part of a network of conservatives” that “organized in opposition to the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court,” she wrote in a National Review Online piece April 20.

Labeled Ideologue

Feinstein criticized Porter for a 2012 article in which he said laws aimed at stopping gun possession near schools and gender-motivated violence were “exercises of the general police power that belongs exclusively to the states.”

“I find troubling” Porter’s “view that Congress lacks the constitutional authorization to combat” gun and gender-motivated violence, she said.

Porter “is an ideologue and will not treat all Americans with the fairness and dignity they should be afforded by our justice system,” she said.

Porter pledged to follow Supreme Court precedent regardless of any views he has espoused.

Brown v. Board

Porter declined to answer whether he believed the landmark civil rights decision of Brown v.Board of Education was correctly decided, when asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

“I could give you an answer to that question,” Porter said. But he gave two reasons why he and other nominees wouldn’t do so.

First, “we don’t want to appear to be giving an answer that would please you in order to obtain a vote,” he said.

Second, the “canons of judicial conduct prohibit us from opining about the merits of even landmark cases like Brown,” he said.

Republicans Tout Experience, Support

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) highlighted Porter’s representation of diverse clients, including the New York Times and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D).

Porter served as a clerk for Judge D. Brooks Smith when he was a district judge, before Smith became the current chief judge of the Third Circuit, Toomey said.

Toomey noted that Smith was in the audience.

Porter has the support of a wide array of groups, including the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) noted.