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The Senate confirmed four trial court nominees to the federal bench Wednesday, among them a public interest lawyer Democrats say will trim abortion rights.

The package passed as the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from constitutional scholars pursuant to its impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

Senators confirmed Sarah Pitlyk to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on a 49-44 vote that largely followed party lines.

“Sarah’s strong legal experience, sharp intellect, and commitment to the rule of law make her an outstanding choice for the Eastern District,” GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said in a statement. “I was proud to recommend her to President Trump, and I am confident that she will serve the people of Missouri as a principled and fair judge for decades to come.”

Conservative groups made a last-minute push for Pitlyk after a Republican defection raised the prospect of a narrow confirmation vote. GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine opposed Pitlyk, citing concerns over judicial temperament.

Pitlyk joined the Thomas More Society as special counsel after graduating Yale Law School and practicing law in Washington, D.C., and St. Louis. The Thomas More Society is a public interest law practice that litigates pro-life and religious liberty causes. Her pro-life advocacy has included criticism of surrogacyand fertility treatments.

Pitlyk also defended David Daleiden, an activist whose undercover videos purport to show Planned Parenthood executives arranging the sale of fetal tissue. Daleiden faced criminal charges arising from those videos in two states, relating to invasion of privacy and tampering with records. He has not been convicted on any charge.

“My concern is not based on Ms. Pitlyk’s personal views on abortion or various medical decisions, which she has every right to hold,” Collins said in a statement. “I do question, however, given her pattern of strident advocacy, whether she could put aside her personal views on these matters.”

“Her history of public service in defense of the First Amendment should be to Ms. Pitlyk’s credit, not used against her,” Travis Weber of the Family Research Council told lawmakers in a letter the Daily Caller News Foundation obtained.

Pitlyk was also a surrogate for Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his contentious confirmation to the Supreme Court. She clerked for Kavanaugh when he served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The Eastern District of Missouri is the federal trial court based in St. Louis, with jurisdiction over dozens of counties in the eastern part of the state.

Other nominees confirmed Wednesday include Austin Huffaker Jr. for the Middle District of Alabama, Douglas Cole for the Southern District of Ohio and John L. Sinatra for the Western District of New York.

Author: Kevin Daley

Source: Daily Caller: The Senate Confirmed Four Federal Judges While The House Heard Impeachment Testimony

The Supreme Court of Utah upheld a six-month suspension without pay for a municipal judge who disparaged President Donald Trump on social media and during official judicial proceedings.

Taylorsville Justice Court Judge Michael Kwan undermined public confidence in the courts by intervening in the political process, the state Supreme Court concluded.

“Fulfillment of judicial duties does not come without personal sacrifice of some opportunities and privileges available to the public at large,” Utah Supreme Court Justice John Pearce wrote in an opinion upholding the sanctions against Kwan. “And as a person the public entrusts to decide issues with the utmost fairness, independence, and impartiality, a judge must at times set aside the power of his or her voice.”

The state Judicial Conduct Commission (JCC) brought formal charges against Kwan after the judge disparaged the president on social networks and in his own courtroom during official proceedings. In one social media post, for example, Kwan suggested that congressional Republicans were comparable to the rubber-stamp parliament of Nazi Germany.

“Welcome to the beginning of the fascist takeover,” Kwan wrote. “We need to be diligent in questioning congressional Republicans if they are going to be the American Reichstag and refuse to stand up for the Constitution, refuse to uphold their oath of office, and enable the tyrants to consolidate their power.”

President Donald Trump greets House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) at the White House on May 4, 2017. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

On another occasion, the judge dismissed a defendant’s contention that he would pay off overdue court fines with his tax rebate, saying that Trump will only give tax cuts to the wealthy.

The JCC concluded that Kwan’s internet posts and statements in court were “prejudicial to the administration of justice” and suspended the judge without pay for six months.

The state Supreme Court reviewed those findings. Kwan said his social media commentary is protected First Amendment speech. The court rejected Kwan’s argument, saying state precedent provides that judges cannot raise their first constitutional challenge to a JCC rule in a disciplinary proceeding. However, Pearce seemed to acknowledge that precedent is problematic and could be revisited in a future case.

According to Pearce’s opinion, the JCC and the Utah bar association have sanctioned Kwan in the past for inappropriate political commentary and misuse of judicial authority, to include imposing jail sentences in absentia and assessing excessive fines. On one occasion, the state Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Kwan for serving as president of a nonprofit that took policy positions and criticized candidates for public office.

Author: Kevin Daley

Source: Daily Caller: JUDGE SUSPENDED WITHOUT PAY FOR ANTI-TRUMP COMMENTS IN COURT, SOCIAL MEDIA

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