A liberal group has come out against President Donald Trump’s nomination of a Louisville lawyer to a federal appeals court, criticizing him for opposing a landmark ruling dealing with freedom of the press.
John Bush is currently a partner at the Louisville law firm Bingham Greenebaum Doll, and according to his website practices complex litigation dealing with financial institutions, intellectual property and product liability disputes.
He is also an influential member of the Federalist Society, a conservative group that advocates for the literal interpretation of laws and the Constitution based on their original meaning.
During a Federalist Society event in 2009, Bush said that a landmark Supreme Court ruling that strengthened press protections from libel claims was probably “wrongly decided.”
“I would submit that from an originalist perspective that New York Times v. Sullivan probably wasn’t correctly decided,” Bush said during a speech at the event.
“At the time of the founding it was recognized under libel law that if you have a false statement it didn’t really matter whether you had a malicious intent or not, you were entitled to recovery and that was for the highest official in the land down to the regular citizen.”
President Trump nominated Bush to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which considers appeals from federal cases originating in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan.
Bush is one of more than a dozen nominations that Trump has made to the federal courts and is awaiting a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee
Dan Goldberg, legal director for progressive judicial watchdog group Alliance For Justice, argues that Bush could play a role in weakening press freedoms if confirmed.
“It’s remarkable that the president has nominated somebody who wants to make it easier for him to sue journalists who are just doing their job,” Goldberg said.
Trump has repeatedly called for changing the country’s libel laws, saying that press protections are too extensive.
Last fall, Trump said that U.S. libel law should look more like Britain’s policy, where burden of proof is placed on defendants to prove that statements are true.
Goldberg also called for a halt to confirmations of all of Trump’s judicial nominees in the wake of Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey last week, more than six years before the end of his term.
“Any nomination coming from this president is inherently suspect,” Goldberg said. “There has to be questions — is this somebody who is going to be an independent check on the president, on the administration, who’s going to uphold the rule of law?”
Bush did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell applauded Trump’s nomination of Bush.
“John has built a reputation as a talented litigator, trying complex cases in both state and federal courts,” McConnell said in a statement. “Through his broad array of experiences, John has proven his legal ability and earned the respect of his peers. He will make a strong addition to the Sixth Circuit, and I look forward to the Senate confirming him.”
Trump has also nominated Judge Amul Thapar to serve on the 6th Circuit. Thapar breezed through a preliminary hearing late last month and is awaiting a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Last week Democrats on the committee delayed the vote by “holding over” the nomination to this week.