Senate approves Kenneth Bell for U.S. District Court
The former law partner and prosecutor, who made a case for indicting failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her personal email server usage while serving as secretary of state, was confirmed to the federal bench on Wednesday.
Kenneth Bell, a partner at McGuireWoods, was voted 55 to 43 by the Senate for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, which includes Charlotte.
District of Utah nominee Howard Nielson was also confirmed to lifetime district judgeships.
Nielson took litigation positions as opposed to LGBT rights.
Next up was the former director of an anti-abortion organization and Eastern District of Missouri nominee Stephen Clark; and Carl Nichols, a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr who’s headed for the district court for the District of Columbia.
The four picks reveal President Donald Trump‘s promise to transform the federal courts with conservatives, a promise he’s so far kept with the Senate confirming more than a hundred of his nominees since he took office in 2017.
But surprisingly, the Democrats summoned ideology for why a number of them shouldn’t serve.
Meanwhile, supporters of Trump’s picks cite legal experience and other qualities that they say qualify them for lifetime judiciary appointments.
According to Bloomberg Law: Among questions, Bell faced during his confirmation involved an op-ed he wrote for the Charlotte Observer in July 2016 that made a prosecutorial argument for charging Clinton over the use of a private email server while serving as the nation’s top diplomat under Barack Obama.
The server controversy dogged Clinton throughout the 2016 presidential campaign and prompted an FBI review.
Bell disputed former agency Director James Comey’s assertion that no reasonable prosecutor would bring felony charges against Clinton.
“I know an army of reasonable prosecutors who would have done just that if they had been allowed,” Bell wrote.
He said later in his written replies to Senate questions that the piece was based on his years as a prosecutor under U.S. attorneys appointed by both Democrats and Republicans and as a defense attorney.
“It particularly criticized then FBI Director Comey for stating a prosecutorial decision, which in my view at the time should have been left to officials of the Department of Justice,” he said in his response to Judiciary Committee members last August.
Clinton said she broke no laws, but the controversy factored into a list of purported “crimes” and grievances from conservatives against her.
It also helped produce heated chants of “lock her up” at the party’s national convention” as well as Trump’s characterization of her as “Crooked Hillary.”
Mike Davis, a former top Judiciary Committee nominations counsel who now runs a group, the Article III Project, that backs Trump judicial nominees, pushed back on Democratic Senate questioning of Bell over his opinion piece.
“People are allowed to have opinions, and there are a lot of people who thought Hillary Clinton should have been indicted,” he said.
Bell will now preside over the district where he served as a longtime federal prosecutor.