Bryn Stole in articles on Nov. 14 and Nov. 16 reported U.S. Sen. John Kennedy’s reluctance to support the nomination of Kyle Duncan to fill Louisiana’s seat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, is going ahead with a hearing on Duncan, pairing him with David Stras, nominated for a seat on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, who does not have the support of both of his home-state Minnesota senators for moving forward. This continues a troubling pattern of rushing consideration of nominees for lifetime seats on these important federal courts. 

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Frankly, we are pleased that, when it comes to Kyle Duncan’s nomination, Kennedy is not jumping on the bandwagon with those in his party who just want to rubber-stamp President Donald Trump’s nominees regardless of their inexperience or record of partisan and biased views.

We hope that at the Nov. 29 hearing, he will ask the kind of tough, thoughtful questions that should be asked of nominees to lifetime seats. If confirmed, 45-year-old Kyle Duncan could serve for a generation, making decisions that impact every aspect of our lives from the quality of the air we breathe to the conditions of our workplaces to the extent to which our most private decisions will be respected.

For our part, we are troubled by Duncan’s record which seems to find him uniformly on the side of those who would restrict rights rather than expand them whether voting rights or the rights of LGBT individuals and families, or other rights.

He co-wrote the brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn the 4th Circuit’s repudiation of North Carolina’s voting restrictions which, the 4th Circuit said, “targeted African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” The Supreme Court in its wisdom sided with the 4th Circuit not Mr. Duncan.

Federal Fifth Circuit nominee from Louisiana to get hearing, despite lack of endorsement from Sen. John Kennedy

He has featured prominently in cases opposing adoption by same-sex couples and marriage equality as well as arguing the Hobby Lobby case which privileged corporate religious rights over those of employees. Based on these cases and a long list of others, we question whether he would be an open-minded, independent jurist who would give a fair hearing to all of those who come before him.

We look forward to hearing Kennedy’s statement and questions at the upcoming hearing. We are hopeful that he will continue to be a more independent voice on judicial nominees — the future of justice for all hangs in the balance.

Clay Latimer

Ina Davis

co-chairs, Louisiana Courts Matter

New Orleans