Trump’s NV nominee to 9th Circuit reflects ‘extreme judicial agenda,’ Nevada senators say

but of course
Political advertisement from Lawrence Van Dyke's 2014 campaign for the Montana Supreme Court (Photo: VanDyke's twitter)
but of course
Political advertisement from Lawrence Van Dyke’s 2014 campaign for the Montana Supreme Court (Photo: VanDyke’s twitter)

Donald Trump announced Friday he is nominating Lawrence VanDyke to a seat on the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Nevada’s two U.S. senators are not at all impressed.

“The White House has chosen to move forward on their extreme judicial agenda,” Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen said in a joint statement. “While we will review the full record of this nominee, we are disappointed that the White House has chosen to nominate a candidate with a concerning record of ideological legal work.”

VanDyke was hired to work in the Nevada attorney general’s office by former AG Adam Laxalt shortly after Laxalt won election to the office in 2014. VanDyke was hired from Montana, where, as a state solicitor general, he took sharp positions against gun violence reforms (“semi-auto firearms are fun to hunt elk with”), and same-sex marriage (“there is a fairly obvious collision course between religious freedom and gay rights”). He also wrote amicus briefs supporting strict anti-abortion laws passed by other states.

VanDyke lost a campaign for the Montana Supreme Court in 2014.

Traditionally, before naming a nominee to the federal bench, presidents confer with U.S. senators in the nominee’s state.

Trump’s announcement Friday came just two days after Cortez Masto and Rosen announced they were forming bipartisan commissions “for vetting qualified judicial nominees for federal appointments to the District Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Nevada.”

In their statement reacting to Trump’s nomination of VanDyke Friday, the Democratic senators said they were “frustrated the White House is choosing to ignore the bipartisan work undertaken by our offices in concert with Nevada’s legal community to identify and recommend qualified Nevadans for the Ninth Circuit.”

“The Administration’s decision to put forward this nominee ignores the broad, consensus-based opinion of Nevadans. Instead, the White House has chosen to move forward on their extreme judicial agenda,” the senators’ statement said.

When he announced the hire in 2014, Laxalt touted VanDyke as “a premier U.S. Supreme Court appellate attorney” who “will put up a strong and capable defense of Nevada’s laws.”

But in the most high-profile case during Laxalt’s single term as attorney general — in which the state’s school vouchers law was effectively overturned — Nevada’s law was not defended by VanDyke, but by Paul Clement, a star Washington D.C. attorney whose firm Laxalt’s office hired at a cost of more than a half-million dollars.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.

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