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Trump nominates controversial Kentucky judge for D.C. court

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (L) is pictured with U.S. District Court judge Justin Walker before his Senate confirmation in October 2019. Photo courtesy Sen. Mitch McConnell's Office/UPI
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (L) is pictured with U.S. District Court judge Justin Walker before his Senate confirmation in October 2019. Photo courtesy Sen. Mitch McConnell's Office/UPI

April 3 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Friday nominated Justin Walker, a Kentucky judge who was a controversial pick for the federal bench when he was appointed on a party-line vote five months ago, for a seat on the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals.

Walker was approved for the Kentucky seat despite having never before been a judge and holding a "not qualified" rating from the American Bar Association for his lack of trial experience.

Walker, 37, was a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, as well as Brett Kavanaugh when he was an appellate judge in Washington. Walker was a speechwriter for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld before attending law school.

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In a statement announcing his nomination, the White House touted his work in private practice, his clerkships with Kennedy and Kavanaugh and his graduation magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was the notes editor for the Harvard Law Review.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, a fellow Kentuckian, praised Walker and cited what he said is a need to assign a judge outside of Washington, D.C. to that particular court.

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"I think you cannot credibly argue that Justin Walker is not a judicial all-star," McConnell said. "I thought it might be a good idea to go outside the Beltway. There are plenty of D.C. lawyers that salivate over this job."

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer pointed to Walker's poor ABA rating and his lack of experience as reason to cast doubt on the nomination.

"Mr. Walker is less than 10 years out of law school, has never tried a case, has never served as co-counsel, and it's not clear how much of his 10 years has even been spent practicing law," Schumer said.

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