In an unusual move, the White House has recently tapped President Donald Trump’s former solicitor general, Noel Francisco, to be the next chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, reports the New York Times.
A judge and former solicitor general (usually the solicitor is the government’s chief advocate at the Supreme Court) who has served under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, the Trump appointee has long ties to the administration. He serves as one of Mr. Trump’s top appellate lawyers and has also served as acting solicitor general. He had kept a Senate confirmation hearing for his nomination open until this week, arguing that it wasn’t right for the White House to start screening potential judges in advance of when they become eligible to appear before the Senate.
The Senate had planned to vote on his nomination on 23 December, but it was delayed over a minor dispute involving a member of the judiciary committee, Diane Feinstein, one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal critics, who pulled her support after the Trump administration tried to review her personal emails without a court order.
Under current law, Mr. Francisco would likely not be the only new judge appointed in the Ninth Circuit. In a surprise move this week, California Senator Diane Feinstein proposed that judges in the Ninth Circuit—which covers Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Alaska, and Hawaii—be given power to block new appointments to the federal court system in Washington until Mr. Trump releases tax returns, something the president and his lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, say is irrelevant because Trump’s business interests are not within the court’s jurisdiction.