WASHINGTON —– Senate Democrats sharply questioned federal appeals court nominees Eric Murphy and Chad Readler, expressing fears they would be hostile to gun control, the rights of immigrants, and same-sex marriage.
During a confirming hearing Wednesday for Ohio solicitor Eric Murphy and Justice Department official Chad Readler to the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Democratic members followed the lead of Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who urged the Senate reject both nominees.
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Brown, D-Ohio, pointed out that as state solicitor, Murphy urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Ohio’s controversial voter purge law and that Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage did not violate the U.S. Constitution.
"Rather than granting these nominees lifetime authority to threaten Americans’ voting rights and health care, we should start over with two different candidates who can earn consensus," Brown said.
Although Murphy insisted he would approach case with an "open mind" and Readler said he had only represented the views of the administration while in the Justice Department, Democrats made clear their belief that the Trump administration tapped the two lawyers in the hope of nudging the federal appeals court to the right.
Both Murphy and Readler testified that as federal appeals judges they would follow the precedents established by the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage, the 2010 health law known as Obamacare, and Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling which established a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion.
While federal appeals judges are required to adopt binding Supreme Court precedents in their rulings, they also have broad latitude to issue major decisions that have not yet reached the Supreme Court.
The nominations of Murphy and Readler have provoked a split between Brown and Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.
After Brown testified, Portman urged the panel to approve both Murphy and Readler, saying "these two nominees have the right experience" and are "qualified to serve" on the court of appeals.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., objected to Democratic efforts to pry loose how the nominees might rule in future cases. He argued that both were extremely well qualified to serve on the 6th Circuit.
Murphy has been the state solicitor in the office of Attorney General Mike DeWine since 2013, overseeing and arguing cases involving appeals before the Ohio Supreme Court, the 6th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.
He is a former law clerk to retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and a graduate of the University of Chicago law school.
Readler, a former partner in the Columbus law office of Jones Day, has been principal deputy and acting assistant attorney general for the civil division at the U.S. Department of Justice.
He is a graduate of the University of Michigan law school.