Trump begins effort to pack courts with conservatives


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration will name nearly a dozen judges as nominees for key posts Monday as President Donald Trump works to pack the nation’s federal courts with more conservative voices.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that among the candidates are individuals previously named on Trump’s list of 21 possible picks for Supreme Court justice.

Trump will nominate Joan Larsen, who currently serves on Michigan’s Supreme Court, to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, and David Stras, a justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court bench, to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

Spicer said that another eight nominees would be named later Monday.

All nominees would require Senate confirmation.

The announcement comes less than a month after Trump’s final pick for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed as justice to the nation’s highest court, restoring the court’s conservative tilt.

While appeals courts tends to have a lower public profile, their role in adjudicating many of the orders and laws put forth by the administration will be significant.

Trump’s earliest efforts to implement his agenda were dramatically derailed by the courts, which pushed back against his proposed travel ban and his order to withhold funding from “sanctuary cities” that limit cooperation with immigration authorities.

After the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his immigration ban, Trump emphatically tweeted last February “SEE YOU IN COURT!” The administration vowed that it would re-appeal the ruling and either revise its original executive order or write a new one from scratch. But while a revised ban was later released, that too was blocked by the courts.

Trump said last month that he is considering breaking up the 9th Circuit, a federal appeals court that covers Western states and which has long been a target of Republicans.

It would take congressional action to break up the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Republicans have introduced bills this year to do just that.

Larsen, a former professor at the University of Michigan law school, has served on the Michigan Supreme Court bench since November 2015 and has written majority opinions in four cases.

She was a law clerk to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative giant on the court, and spoke at a memorial following his death in February. She also served in the U.S. Justice Department when George W. Bush was president.

Stras formerly clerked for conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and is known to share the view of a limited role for the judiciary.

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AP writer Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis and Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.