Kennedy Came Around On Duncan After All…

…and the conservative superstar lawyer, nominated by the Trump administration to fill an open judicial seat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, is virtually assured of confirmation now. In Kyle Duncan we’ll be getting a brilliant young judge who’ll be able to shape the 5th Circuit for decades to come and maybe even one day ascend to the Supreme Court.

This, thanks to a last-minute switch by Sen. John Kennedy, who for some reason was “undecided” on Duncan until yesterday evening.

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., endorsed Washington lawyer Kyle Duncan on Thursday night (Nov. 30) for a seat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, after withholding his support in a pique over the White House’s judicial nominating process and some actual nominees. Kennedy’s backing seems likely to ensure a favorable recommendation from the Judiciary Committee, of which he is a member, and perhaps confirmation by the full Senate.

“After hearing his testimony and watching him gracefully handle the scrutiny of a public hearing, I am confident that Kyle Duncan will be a welcome addition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit,” Kennedy said. “I plan to vote in favor of him and look forward to welcoming him home to Louisiana.”

Duncan might have been confirmed anyway. Another Trump judicial appointee, Gregory Katsas, was confirmed to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals by a 50-48 vote over Kennedy’s objection, thanks to a switch by Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin. Perhaps Manchin might have done the same for Duncan, or perhaps all other Republican senators would have voted in favor of Duncan so Kennedy’s vote wasn’t needed.

But we’re told that Rep. Mike Johnson, who shares status as Louisiana’s newest member of Congress with Clay Higgins, helped close the deal with Kennedy on Duncan. Johnson, a constitutional lawyer by trade as Duncan is, and the two are long-time friends.

Things did get a little messy before Kennedy came aboard on Duncan. Our sources yesterday were telling us that if the Senator had stood in the way of Duncan’s confirmation there would be blowback to the tune of Kennedy’s future judicial recommendations being blackballed by the Trump administration and some of his Senate colleagues. That would have made a colossal mess – one of the public statements Kennedy had made on Duncan was that he wasn’t sure Duncan was well-rounded enough as a legal scholar for the position he’s up for, and most of all that he “wasn’t Louisiana enough” for that seat, and what would he tell someone like Alan Seabaugh if Duncan were to be confirmed…

“I’ve gotten scores of calls from lawyers back in Louisiana who say, ‘Hey, you know, I’m experienced, I’m pro-life, I’m pro-religious liberty.’ Some of them are judges,” Kennedy said, throwing in the name of a Republican state senator and lawyer from Shreveport. “What do I say to a person say, for example, like Alan Seabaugh, as to why I would not pick somebody who’s been in Louisiana for a while?”

Responded Duncan: “I was born and raised in Louisiana. I was educated in Louisiana. I’m a double graduate of Louisiana State University, both the undergraduate and the law school. I clerked for a Louisiana-based judge.

“But more to the point, I have spent a significant and, sort of, prime part of my legal career defending the laws the people of Louisiana passed. And those were not easy cases.”

The “not Louisiana enough” objection was frivolous, after all, since Duncan is from Baton Rouge for one thing and for another the 5th Circuit judgeship isn’t a “Louisiana” position per se but a 5th Circuit position, and the 5th Circuit covers Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. It turns out Duncan is one of the very few potential nominees who has actually worked in all three states, as he’s spent time in the Texas Attorney General’s office and was a law professor at Mississippi College as well as having worked in and for the State of Louisiana.

As for Seabaugh, a state representative from Shreveport known as one of the most consistent conservatives in the Louisiana legislature and a lawyer in his own right, he’s up for a possible federal judgeship in Alexandria; some of the folks trying to push him for the position expressed worry that when Kennedy publicly touted Seabaugh as something of an alternative to Duncan it would do damage to the hopes of getting him nominated.

Especially since Seabaugh was never up for the 5th Circuit seat, knows Duncan and has in fact expressed support for his nomination.

It’s better for everybody that Kennedy came around on Duncan. Thanks to him for doing so, and thanks to Johnson for brokering the deal to completion.

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