Calif. senators say they did not sign off on judicial nominees

File Art - Sens. Dianne Feinstein (left) and Kamala Harris said they did not sign off on three White House nominees for open Calif. sets on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris said they did not sign off on three White House nominees for open California seats on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and will oppose the confirmations, according to a report.

President Donald Trump announced he had nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Patrick Bumatay, Los Angeles appellate attorney Daniel Collins and Los Angeles litigator Kenneth Kiyul Lee for the vacancies.

The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit is the nation’s largest federal appeals court and hears cases from nine Western states. It holds 29 judicial positions and there are six vacancies. 

Republicans have accused the court of having a liberal slant and moved to break it up — an effort supported by Trump.

The court has ruled against Trump’s travel ban involving several Muslim-majority nations and his executive order threatening to cut funding for sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with immigration officials.

Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she and the administration were still trying to reach a consensus on nominees when the White House abruptly announced the three nominations, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

“I repeatedly told the White House I wanted to reach an agreement on a package of 9th Circuit nominees, but last night the White House moved forward without consulting me,” Feinstein said in a statement.

Lily Adams, a spokeswoman for Harris, another Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee, said the White House continues to “try to pack the courts with partisan judges who will blindly support the president’s agenda, instead of acting as an independent check on this administration.”

A letter sent to Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, by the White House said it made a good faith effort to work with California’s senators.

“We have made more attempts to consult and devoted more time to that state than any other in the country,” White House Counsel Donald McGahn wrote.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate voted 51-44 on Thursday to confirm another Trump nominee, Idaho attorney Ryan Douglas Nelson, to the 9th Circuit. He takes over a seat vacated by N. Randy Smith, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush.

Only one Democrat, Doug Jones of Alabama, voted in favor of Nelson.

The Leadership Conference, a coalition of civil and human rights groups, accused Nelson of being a conservative ideologue who had a troubling record on the environment.

Idaho’s two Republican senators, Mike Crapo and James Risch, supported Nelson’s nomination.

“He understands that a judge is responsible for interpreting and applying the Constitution and laws of the land as they are written, and not to be a maker of laws from the bench,” Crapo said in a statement.

Among the nominees in California, Bumatay works as a counselor to the U.S. attorney general’s office on various criminal issues, including opioid abuse and transnational organized crime. Feinstein’s office said his name was not among those initially proposed by the White House.

Collins is an appellate attorney and partner with the Los Angeles office of Munger, Tolles & Olson. He previously was an associate deputy attorney general.

Lee is an appellate attorney and a partner in the Los Angeles office of Jenner & Block LLP. He was previously an associate White House counsel for President George W. Bush.