GOP senators trying to sink latest judicial pick because he isn't conservative enough


Halil Suleyman Ozerden, who Trump tapped for a judicial slot on the Fifth Circuit, might not get that job because he's not far enough right for Sen. Ted Cruz and others.

After several months in limbo, the judicial candidacy of Halil Suleyman Ozerden might be coming to a close.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has held over a decision to vote on his nomination an unprecedented five times. Now, the White House has asked the committee to remove Ozerden's nomination from an agenda for an upcoming meeting where several other judicial nominees are slated to receive votes.

Ozerden is Donald Trump's choice for a slot on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit, which includes Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, has long been considered the most conservative circuit court, even before Trump's judicial picks lurched the court even further right.

Ozerden's candidacy is opposed by two influential conservative senators who sit on the Judicial Committee: Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri. That's because Ozerden, who is currently a federal judge in Mississippi, once ruled in favor of the Obama administration on a technical matter. He dismissed one of the numerous cases filed by conservative Catholics objecting to Obamacare's birth control mandate, holding that the case wasn't legally ready to be heard yet and telling the plaintiff, a Catholic diocese, they could re-file the case at a later date.

Cruz took this as evidence Ozerden isn't conservative enough nor devoted enough to "religious liberty." Hawley dislikes him for the same reason. There are also some convenient optics for both Cruz and Hawley here. Opposing a Trump nominee for being insufficiently conservative allows them both to burnish their credentials as "real" conservatives and to assert that they don't simply vote in lockstep with Trump's wishes.

The GOP hesitation over confirming Ozerden stands in stark contrast to its eagerness to confirm even the most unqualified of Trump's other picks. In two-and-a-half years, Trump has had nine judicial appointees receive a "not qualified" rating from the American Bar Association (ABA). Trump has nominated — and the GOP has confirmed — a judge who supports scientifically unsound anti-LGBTQ "conversion" therapy, a judge who never fully tried a case, and a judge who has tended not to show up for work.

And of course there was Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. While Kavanaugh was wholly qualified under the ABA standards regarding length and breadth of legal experience, he appeared unqualified in terms of judicial temperament, spending a large portion of his confirmation hearing yelling, crying, and spouting conspiracy theories about the Clintons. The GOP was perfectly fine with confirming him to the high court regardless.

It's worth noting that, in eight years, none of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees were deemed "not qualified."

Unlike many of Trump's other judicial picks, Ozerden is objectively well-suited for the job. He received a "well qualified" rating from a majority of the ABA. He's been a federal judge for the last 12 years and was confirmed for that position 95-0.

Ozerden practiced law for eight years before his nomination and spent six years in the military in between his undergraduate education and starting law school.

But all of that apparently pales in comparison to one decision on one case — further proof that the judicial nominating process may be utterly broken.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.