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Trump Appoints Milwaukee Attorney To Long-Standing 7th Circuit Vacancy

President Bypasses State Nominating Commission To Fill Seat

Shawn Johnson/WPR

President Donald Trump has nominated a Milwaukee lawyer to the nation’s longest standing federal appeals court vacancy.

Trump announced the nomination of Michael Brennan for a seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday morning. The seat has been open since 2010.

The president’s nomination bypassed the state’s Federal Nominating Commission, which was established in Wisconsin in 1979 by U.S. Sens. William Proxmire and Gaylord Nelson. Since then, the state’s U.S. senators have used the commission to recommend to the president judicial nominees for every U.S. attorney and federal judicial vacancy.

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Current Wisconsin U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson renewed their commitment to utilizing the six-member commission earlier this year.

“It’s troubling that the White House would ignore that and not at least consider what the commission recommended,” said Carl Tobias, professor of law at the University of Richmond. Tobias specializes in federal judicial selection.

On Friday, Baldwin said Trump’s nomination showed “complete disregard for a bipartisan process.”

“President Trump has decided to go it alone and turn his back on a Wisconsin tradition of having a bipartisan process for nominating judges,” Baldwin said. “I am extremely troubled that President (Trump) has taken a partisan approach that disrespects our Wisconsin process.”

Johnson, however, lauded the appointment.

“The White House made a great decision in nominating Mike Brennan,” Johnson said. “Wisconsin, the 7th Circuit, and our nation’s judicial system, will be well served once he is confirmed by the Senate.”

Brennan is currently a partner at a Milwaukee law firm. Prior to that, he served nine years as a judge on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

President Obama’s two nominees for the 7th Circuit, Victoria Nourse in 2010 and Donald K. Schott in 2016, never received Senate confirmation.

Tobias said the prolonged vacancy on the court hurts Wisconsin.

“You’re losing some of that representation that you would have of people who understand Wisconsin law, Wisconsin culture and can bring that to the court,” he said.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals covers Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. It has heard several high-profile cases in recent years, including challenges to Wisconsin’s voter ID and right-to-work laws.

Trump also announced Friday the nomination of Waushara County District Attorney Scott Blader for U.S. attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin. That nomination is also subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 3:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 4, 2017.