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Justice Montana Politics

Bad times ahead for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Well, maybe not bad if you’re bringing an anti-abortion, pro-gun or anti-LGBTQ case before the court.

Lawrence VanDyke, the former solicitor general in the Montana Attorney General’s office, is now on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He was appointed by Trump and confirmed by the U.S. Senate along strict party lines (51-44 with Maine Republican Susan Collins being the only ‘no’ vote).

While serving in Tim Fox’s Attorney General’s office in Helena, he spent a lot of time writing amicus briefs for other states against same-sex relationships and child adoptions, and for a case that supported LGBTQ discrimination on college campuses. He challenged a law that would make it illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase a handgun, and co-authored a brief defending 20-week abortion bans and urging the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade.

Prior to his appointment to the 9th Circuit, he received a “Not Qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, which called VanDyke “arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to-day practice including procedural rules.”

The only good news to offer is the fact that VanDyke lost his 2014 bid for the Montana Supreme Court by nearly 20 points to Mike Wheat. So, at least he won’t be a factor in cases that make it to the state’s highest court. Montanans obviously have better sense than the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

But it should be noted that Montana is within the 9th Circuit Court’s jurisdiction. So, VanDyke could be ruling on appeals that come from Montana’s five District Courts.

On an even more depressing note, according to Slate, “Trump has now appointed more than a quarter of federal appellate judges, and seven judges rated ‘Not Qualified’.” The article continues:

The vast majority of federal cases end in appeals courts, so judges like VanDyke will have the final say over numerous disputes of great importance. Even if, against all odds, the Senate’s upcoming impeachment trial results in a conviction, Trump’s impact on the country will continue through his judicial nominees for decades to come.

Rolling back thoughtful, progressive decisions–and not just social justice but environmental, labor law, campaign finance reform, to name but a few–will be the rule of the land under Trump’s appellate courts.


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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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