“Where do we find such men?”
It’s a question that President Ronald Reagan asked on the 40th anniversary of D-Day. It’s a question the 40th president appropriated from the Korean War movie, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri.” And it’s a question that we all might ask — with the addition of “and women” — when considering the President’s Trump’s stellar nominees to our federal appeals courts.
President Trump has consistently nominated men and women with diamond-studded legal resumes and rock-solid commitments to the rule of law rather than rule of judges. Conservatives and Republicans are united in their high praise for the president’s inspired picks for the Supreme Court and federal courts of appeal.
Indeed, it’s not too much to say that Kyle Duncan, Trump’s pick for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and whom I know personally and professionally, is the Neil Gorsuch of Louisiana.
Not only do they both come with prodigious academic and legal resumes, but they also share a judicial philosophy. They believe that judges must follow our laws and the Constitution — and not base decisions on their own moral preferences or policy positions. They are both keen on protecting religious freedom within the confines of our Constitution. In addition, Duncan and Gorsuch have that gift of being able to boil complex legal issues down to the basics, and explain in terms the general public can appreciate.
After attending Baton Rouge Catholic High, Duncan earned undergraduate and law degrees from Louisiana State University, so he has an edge over Gorsuch (Columbia University and Harvard Law) in terms of academic background. (Go Tigers!)
From there, Duncan went on to clerk for Judge John M. Duhe, Jr., on the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit, who hales from my own hometown of Iberia. Duncan then spent four years representing Louisiana with distinction in the attorney general’s office. He must have turned heads there, because our state repeatedly called him back to represent Louisiana as a special counsel. He’s handled a broad range of complex legal and constitutional issues for our Bayou State, which gives him an excellent foundation understanding issues before the Fifth Circuit.
Small wonder the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Judiciary has given Duncan a “well-qualified” rating.
He’s also served in the Texas Solicitor General’s office and worked as professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law. Clearly, the world beyond our state has come to appreciate this Louisiana lawyer. In fact, Louisiana and all other states have been profoundly affected by Duncan’s legal work. As general counsel of Becket Fund, an organization that defends the free exercise of religion for all faiths, Duncan oversaw the successful Hobby Lobby challenge to ObamaCare’s mandate. That was the case in which a closely-held company argued that the chain’s provision of abortifacients for its employees violated the owners’ religious freedom.
That was also the case in which Gorsuch, then on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, joined the court’s majority in siding with Duncan, Becket Fund and Hobby Lobby. He wrote in a separate concurrence that the mandate:
“Infringes the (owners’) religious liberties by requiring them to lend what their religion teaches to be an impermissible degree of assistance to the commission of what their religion teaches to be a moral wrong.”
In addition to Hobby Lobby, Duncan has served as counsel for parties and friends of the court (amici) in some 40 cases before the Supreme Court. Again, his work has not gone unnoticed. The National Association of Attorneys General awarded him its Best Brief Award for his written advocacy. Twice.
Now, it’s time for Duncan to put these Gorsuch-level skills to work as a federal appellate judge.
It’s time for the Senate to give Duncan a hearing and an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. Conservatives and Republicans and all those who care about the rule of law will not forgive senators who play political games with a nominee of Kyle Duncan’s caliber.
Where do we find such men and women?
Where should we find them?
On the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the person of Kyle Duncan, the Neil Gorsuch of Louisiana.
Jeff Landry is the attorney general of Louisiana. He has appointed Kyle Duncan to represent the State of Louisiana in several ongoing cases as special counsel. This piece originally appeared at The Hill, in advance of Duncan’s Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing today.