The Leadership Conference Opposes the Confirmation of Ryan Bounds to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

February 22, 2018 - Today, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent a letter to the Senate urging opposition to the confirmation of Ryan Bounds to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The letter is pasted below, and is also available here: Thank you,

Shin Inouye (he/him/his)
Director of Communications and Media Relations
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
The Leadership Conference Education Fund
1620 L Street NW, 11th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20036
202.869.0398 - Office | @civilrightsorg

Oppose the Confirmation of Ryan Bounds to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

February 22, 2018

View a PDF of this letter here.

Dear Senator:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations committed to promoting and protecting the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, I write in strong opposition to the confirmation of Ryan Bounds to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Mr. Bounds has made extreme and insensitive comments about people of color, the LGBTQ community, and sexual assault.  While he has recently apologized for those comments, the timing of that apology suggests it is one of convenience rather than remorse, offered in a last-ditch effort to salvage his nomination and win the support of his home-state senators.  He failed.  Both of Mr. Bounds' home-state senators oppose his nomination, and the Senate should not confirm him to this powerful, lifetime appointment.

Racially Offensive Comments:  When he was a student at Stanford University in the 1990s, Mr. Bounds wrote a series of op-eds in the Stanford Review, a conservative newspaper.  He was highly critical of his classmates who joined racial affinity groups and of university efforts to make students of color feel welcome on the historically discriminatory and non-diverse campus.  Mr. Bounds didn't just criticize such efforts, he did so with a mix of insensitivity and disdain that calls into question his temperament and ability to be impartial.  On at least two occasions, he likened the university's multicultural efforts to Nazi Germany.  As a result of the recent public disclosure of Mr. Bounds' articles, the board of a local bar association's diversity committee – of which Mr. Bounds was a member – asked him to resign, and he did so last week.[1]  In an op-ed entitled "Race-Think: A Stanford Phenomenon?," Mr. Bounds made the following insensitive statements (emphasis added):[2]

In another offensive op-ed, entitled "Lo!  A Pestilence Stalks Us," Mr. Bounds criticized Asian, Chicano, and LGBTQ students whom he believed were overly sensitive to perceived slights on campus.  He wrote (emphasis added):[3]

And in another op-ed, Mr. Bounds criticized a Chicano student group that had rallied to support workers who were fired by a local hotel for attempting to unionize.  In "Labor Unions and the Politics of Aztlan," he wrote (emphasis added):[4]

Insensitivity to Sexual Assault Victims:  In yet another op-ed, Mr. Bounds was highly critical of Stanford's consideration of lowering the university's "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard in sexual assault cases in order to make it less burdensome to sanction students who committed such assaults.  Mr. Bounds was deeply opposed to changing the standard.  Here is what he wrote (emphasis added):[5]

The extensive views expressed by Mr. Bounds demonstrate little understanding of the realities of campus sexual assault or the courage it takes for victims to come forward.  Our nation is slowly becoming aware of the prevalence and perniciousness of sexual assault and harassment, and confirming someone with the views of Mr. Bounds would certainly send the wrong message.  It is difficult to fathom that victims of sexual assault, race discrimination, or a hate crime would have confidence that Mr. Bounds would be impartial in considering their cases.

Partisan Activities and Affiliations:  In the wake of public attention to Mr. Bounds' offensive writings that came to light as part of the judicial nomination process in which nominees are required to turn over past writings to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Bounds has tried to distance himself from them.  In a recent email he wrote to the Multnomah Bar Association's Equality & Diversity Committee, which has been made public, he stated that he wanted to "assure you the objectionable words and views recited from three or four of my college op-eds do not reflect the views I have hewn to as a lawyer and, frankly, as a grown-up."[6]

Mr. Bounds has not published his opinions on race or sexual assault since college, but the conservative views he embraced are hardly a distant relic.  He has continued to champion conservative causes throughout his legal career.  In law school he served as the editor-in-chief of the National Student Federalist Society Symposium on Law and Public Policy, "Reviving the Structural Constitution,"[7] a conservative doctrine that embraces a restricted role for the judiciary, a unitary executive, and "the notion of a federal government limited by and confined to its enumerated powers."[8]  Mr. Bounds has been a member of the Federalist Society since 2000, serving as president of its Portland Lawyers' Chapter from 2002-2004 and currently as its vice president.  This out-of-the-mainstream legal organization represents a sliver of America's legal profession – just 4 percent – yet 90 percent of Trump's circuit court nominees, and a significant number of his district court nominees, have been Federalist Society members.  After law school, Mr. Bounds served as a law clerk to Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain, one of the most conservative federal judges in America.[9]  Mr. Bounds worked in the Ashcroft Justice Department and in the Bush White House.  He was a member of the National Republican Lawyers' Association and has contributed over $10,000 to Republican politicians, including President Trump.

Lack of Home-State Senator Support:  On February 12, 2018, Oregon Senators Wyden and Merkley reaffirmed their opposition to Mr. Bounds.  Although the senators' selection committee recently recommended Mr. Bounds among four finalists for the Ninth Circuit (Oregon) vacancy, the senators said in a joint statement: "After the committee finished its work, we learned that Ryan Bounds failed to disclose inflammatory writings that reveal archaic and alarming views about sexual assault, the rights of workers, people of color, and the LGBTQ community."[10]  The senators had expressed initial opposition to Mr. Bounds when he was nominated last September because they had told the White House they would not support anyone who had not applied to and been recommended by their local selection committee.

In light of this opposition from both home-state senators, Mr. Bounds should not be granted a committee hearing or vote. When he was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Obama presidency, Chairman Grassley did not grant a hearing or committee vote to a single nominee unless they had support (reflected by two positive blue slips) from both home-state senators.  Here is what Chairman Grassley promised less than three years ago, during the presidency of Barack Obama:

For nearly a century, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has brought nominees up for committee consideration only after both home-state senators have signed and returned what's known as a "blue slip."  This tradition is designed to encourage outstanding nominees and consensus between the White House and home-state senators. Over the years, Judiciary Committee chairs of both parties have upheld a blue-slip process, including Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, my immediate predecessor in chairing the committee, who steadfastly honored the tradition even as some in his own party called for its demise. I appreciate the value of the blue-slip process and also intend to honor it.[11]

During the Trump presidency, Chairman Grassley has made the hypocritical decision to give a hearing and vote to two circuit court nominees – David Stras and Michael Brennan – who lacked the support of a home-state senator.  That abuse would be compounded if he were to grant a hearing and vote to a nominee like Mr. Bounds who lacks the support of both home-state senators.  The Congressional Research Service has identified three known instances during the 101-year history of the blue slip in which a judicial nominee was confirmed over the objections of a home-state senator, [12] but there are no known instances in which a nominee has ever been confirmed over the objections of both home-state senators. The Senate must not let Mr. Bounds be the first, or it will strip senators of their constitutional role of providing advice and consent for judicial appointments in their states from this and all future administrations.

Over the years, when the Senate majority placed partisan loyalty to the president over the Senate's institutional interest in independently carrying out its constitutional responsibilities, the blue slip served as a vital corrective.  This institutional check has arguably never been more important than today, with a president who undermines the legitimacy of judges and their rulings, and who prioritizes loyalty to him over fealty to the law.  As Senator Hatch astutely observed in 2014: "Weakening or eliminating the blue slip process would sweep aside the last remaining check on the president's judicial appointment power.  Anyone serious about the Senate's 'advice and consent' role knows how disastrous such a move would be."[13]

For the foregoing reasons, The Leadership Conference urges you to reject the nomination of Ryan Bounds to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Thank you for your consideration of our views.  If you have any questions or would like to discuss this matter further, please contact Mike Zubrensky, Chief Counsel and Legal Director, at (202) 466-3311.
Vanita Gupta
President & CEO

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