Trump Picks 4 For New Orleans-Based Appeals Court

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A judge with 16 years of experience on the federal bench and an attorney who has defended Louisiana's efforts to restrict abortion and gay rights are among nominees President Donald Trump has announced for a federal appeals court based in New Orleans.

         The White House on Thursday announced the nominations of U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt of New Orleans and Kyle Duncan, a Washington lawyer and former solicitor general in the Louisiana Attorney General's Office, to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Also nominated were James C. Ho, a Texas lawyer who has served in the U.S. Attorney General's Office; and Don Willett, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court.

         If confirmed by the Senate, the four will fill three current and one pending vacancy on the 5th Circuit.

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         The upcoming vacancy is for the seat held by Judge Grady Jolly, who has announced he will retire Oct. 3.

         Duncan defended Louisiana's law requiring doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital. He also defended Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban and he represented the state health department's fight to keep both members of a same-sex union from getting their names on the birth certificate of an adopted child or one born to one member of such a couple.

         Duncan also led a successful court challenge by Hobby Lobby Stores of contraceptive coverage mandates in the Affordable Care Act.

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         Engelhardt, nominated to the federal bench in 2001 by President George W. Bush, gained notoriety after harshly criticizing the Justice Department in the case of five former New Orleans police officers charged in connection with deadly shootings of unarmed people on a New Orleans bridge in the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina. Engelhardt tossed out convictions of the five, citing prosecutorial misconduct after revelations of prosecutors making anonymous online comments on a newspaper website. He eventually presided over plea bargains in the case.

         Louisiana Republican members of Congress and social conservative groups praised the appointments.

         "Based on their records, both Judge Englehardt and Mr. Duncan can be expected to respect the proper role of judges in our constitutional system and will not engage in legislating from the bench," Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, said in a news release.

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