WASHINGTON — Current Lafayette federal bankruptcy Judge Robert Summerhays was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate to a lifetime federal district court judgeship on Thursday.
Summerhays, 52, was nominated by President Donald Trump to a judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana — which includes Lafayette and Acadiana — earlier this year. District court judges preside over a wide variety of cases, including civil suits and federal criminal cases.
The 42-parish Western District also includes federal courthouses in Alexandria, Lake Charles, Shreveport and Monroe.
Seven U.S. District Court judges are supposed to handle cases in the Western District of Louisiana, a vast expanse that encompasses 42 parishe…
Summerhays had served as a bankruptcy judge in Lafayette since 2006 and as the Western District's chief bankruptcy judge since 2009.
A Texas native, Summerhays attended the University of Texas-Austin for both undergraduate and law school. He clerked for retired 5th Circuit Appellate Judge W. Eugene Davis in New Orleans and worked for a Dallas law firm for 11 years before moving to Lafayette in 2006, when he became a federal bankruptcy judge.
Louisiana U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, both Republicans, praised Summerhays' confirmation in a joint statement Thursday afternoon.
“He has the experience and expertise needed to excel in this position and help clear the backlog of cases in the Lafayette court that has gone without a judge for over a year,” said Cassidy. “He will serve our state and country with distinction.”
“Judge Summerhays’ background, education and judicial philosophies will make him an asset to the court and community in Acadiana," said Kennedy.
Summerhays had been considered for Davis' former New Orleans-based seat on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last year, , according to a questionnaire Summerhays submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The position ultimately went to Kyle Duncan, a high-profile 46-year-old litigator who'd become a star in conservative legal circles by fighting a number of prominent court battles on the culture war front.
Summerhays interviewed for the 5th Circuit job with Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, and with a committee set up by fellow Louisiana GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy. The senators recommended Summerhays to the White House, according to the questionnaire (along with at least one other candidate) but Trump chose Duncan.
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Duncan's selection for the 5th Circuit job initially rankled Kennedy, who ultimately supported Duncan but complained loudly that White House Counsel Don McGahn, who has led efforts to fill vacancies on the federal courts, hadn't consulted him on the pick. Kennedy questioned whether Duncan, who grew up in Baton Rouge and attended LSU but has built most of his legal career in D.C., had close enough ties to the state.
"Now I understand there’s a little cabal of people up here (in Washington) and they have their favorites and that’s who they want," Kennedy said at the time. "But my job is to try to represent all the people of my state and pick the right person."
Trump announced on Twitter last week that McGahn would be leaving the White House after the U.S. Senate finishes the confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's pick to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on the nation's high court.
President Donald Trump probably won’t much miss White House Counsel Don McGahn, who is going to leave his job following the Senate confirmatio…
Summerhays wrote that he'd initially reached out to staffers for Cassidy and then-U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, in December 2016 to express interest in the district court judgeship in Lafayette.
He is the father of three daughters with his wife, Kim. He's taught business law at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette since 2013 and wrote in response to a questionnaire from the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that he hopes to be able to continue teaching.
Summerhays' confirmation by a unanimous voice vote on Thursday came amid a bitter, brawling confirmation hearing for Kavanaugh, whose nomination many Republicans have cheered and Democrats have sought to derail. The Senate's unanimous support for Summerhays stands in stark contrast to what will almost certainly be a closely partisan (and high-stakes) effort to confirm Kavanaugh.
He's now the second Trump nominee to be confirmed to a Western District judgeship after Judge Terry Doughty of north Louisiana, whom the Senate also confirmed unanimously.
Lafayette attorney and Trump nominee Michael Juneau, who unlike Summerhays faced Democratic opposition when he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, is still awaiting a confirmation vote from the full Senate.
Last week, Trump named yet another nominee for a vacant judgeship on Louisiana's Western District courts, Lake Charles attorney James David Cain Jr. Cain is the son of retired state Sen. James David Cain Sr., R-Dry Creek, and the nephew of former longtime Louisiana prison warden Burl Cain.