While Brett Kavanaugh has been getting most of the attention, President Trump has also been making other judicial appointments to lower courts. While most of these appointments have been lauded by conservatives, one such appointee was just confirmed with a majority of Republicans voting “no” due to the judge’s hostility to free speech rights and the Second Amendment.
Mark Jeremy Bennett was confirmed to the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals with the help of Democrats, who supported him unanimously. The vote in favor of Judge Bennett was 72-27 with only Republicans dissenting. Among the “nos” were Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.).
At issue were Bennett’s opinions on the Second Amendment and the landmark Citizens United ruling. Bennett believes in a limited interpretation of the Second Amendment in contrast with the Supreme Court’s Heller decision that affirmed an individual right to keep and bear arms. Bennett also supported same-sex marriage as a legal right prior to the Obergefell decision.
Bennett was one of five state attorneys general who signed a brief in support of the District of Columbia’s gun ban that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Bennett, who was formerly the attorney general of Hawaii, received rave reviews from the same liberals who opposed most of Mr. Trump’s appointments. He also took criticism and harsh questions from Senate Republicans.
“It is very refreshing to me and not only truthful in my view for Mr. Bennett to say a judge’s experience can come into play. I just want to point that out because we have had many nominees that didn’t express that view,” countered Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
The Alliance for Justice, a liberal group that has opposed President Trump’s judicial picks, also endorsed Bennett. Dan Goldberg, the group’s director, said that the Trump Administration consulted with Hawaii’s senators, both Democrats, before making the appointment.
“When you have meaningful, real consultation — real negotiations — you end up with mainstream, non-ideological attorneys,” Goldberg said.
The conservative Judicial Crisis Network normally endorses President Trump’s picks, but had no comment on Bennett. Several pro-Second Amendment groups urged senators to vote “no,” however.
“In spite of Bennett’s reliably left-wing leanings on these and virtually every other issue,” said Michael Hammond, legislative counsel to the Gun Owners of America, “Trump and weak-kneed Republicans seem inclined to reward him with a promotion and pivotal seat on one of the country’s most important courts.”
The traditional Republican view has been that any president, Republican or Democrat, is entitled to any qualified judicial nominee that he wants. The question is why a Republican president would want to nominate someone like Mark Bennett.