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Kentucky Judge Thapar: Trump’s Criticism Of Judges ‘Doesn’t Matter’

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Judge Amul Thapar of Covington breezed through his confirmation hearing for a position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, a federal court that hears cases originating in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan.

Thapar is President Donald Trump’s first nominee to the lower federal courts and was reportedly a finalist to be Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court.

During the 90-minute hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal asked Thapar about Trump’s recent disparagement of federal judges that ruled against the new president’s executive orders.

Thapar said judges’ lifelong terms and reasoning protect them from influence.

“What I will say about me and my colleagues is we don’t pay…it doesn’t matter to us,” Thapar said.

Blumenthal then interrupted Thapar:

“It doesn’t matter to you, judge, but it does matter to the powers of the federal courts that the American public respect and trust the federal judiciary,” Blumenthal said.

Thapar responded that federal judges have operated independently throughout American history.

“They’ve never backed down, they do the right thing,” Thapar said. “They follow the rule of law irrespective of what anyone thinks about us.”

In February, Trump called a federal judge from Washington a “so-called judge” after the court blocked Trump’s refugee ban and travel restrictions from several countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Thapar is currently a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky and he previously served as a U.S. attorney — he was appointed to both positions by President George W. Bush.

Thapar is a friend of Majority Floor Leader Mitch McConnell, who has played a major role in Trump’s two nominations to the judiciary so far.

“I want to commend President Trump on this nomination,” McConnell said in his introduction of Thapar on Wednesday. “Through his hearing I think you’ll come to see the bright, fair and dedicated man who will make an incredible addition to the Sixth Circuit.”

Last year, McConnell blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Sixth Circuit, Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Hughes. He also blocked Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, and prominently lobbied for Trump’s ultimate pick for the high court, Neil Gorsuch.6th

During the hearing, lawmakers questioned Thapar’s past membership with the Federalist Society, a conservative institution that helped compile a shortlist of potential Supreme Court picks that Trump touted during his presidential campaign.

Thapar was included on that list, but on Wednesday said his judicial decisions have been independent from the organizations.

“I’m my own judge and I hope my track record speaks to that,” Thapar said.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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