Politics

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Louisville lawyer John Bush to be a judge on the federal appeals court despite controversy over offensive blog posts he penned under a pseudonym nearly a decade ago.

Bush made more than 400 posts to the Elephants in the Bluegrass Blog, discussing his opposition to same-sex marriage, questioning former President Obama’s citizenship and comparing abortion to slavery.

Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, said that Bush was unqualified because he frequently cited articles that promoted conspiracy theories.

“Whether and how a nominee evaluates the credibility of a claim or a source of information provides a window into how he might approach the factual record in a case,” Franken said.

The Senate voted along party lines to confirm Bush to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears federal cases originating in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan.

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.

During a speech on the Senate Floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell downplayed Bush’s posts, comparing him to Judge Stephen Bough who also wrote offensive blog posts and was confirmed to a federal court during former President Obama’s administration.

“He said specific Republicans were ‘corrupt, they had done evil things’ — evil things, Mr. President — I could go on and on about his corrosive rhetoric,” McConnell said.

Bush 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.”

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said that Bush’s confirmation was unusual in that he was approved along party lines and no Republican besides McConnell spoke in favor of him.

“It used to be rare in the old days when there was less partisanship and fewer paybacks and that type of thing. And I think that’s unfortunate,” Tobias said.

Though partisan battles over judges have become more common over the past decade, it’s still not the rule.

Last week the Senate unanimously approved Judge David Nye to serve as a U.S. District Judge in Idaho.

Tobias said that Bush’s hearings show Senators will be looking more into blogging and other kinds of informal posts judges make in future confirmation battles.

“We’re likely to see it into the future because I think that’s one sign of perhaps temperament that the person might bring to the bench,” he said.

Bush is the second judge confirmed to the federal appeals courts so far during President Donald Trump’s administration.

Amul Thapar, also from Kentucky, was confirmed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals last month.

This story has been updated.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.