Joe Biden scraps plan to nominate anti-abortion lawyer to Kentucky judgeship

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The Guardian

After weeks of criticism from fellow Democrats and abortion advocacy groups, Joe Biden has deserted plans to nominate an anti-abortion lawyer to be a federal judge in Kentucky.

The White House said on Friday that Republican Kentucky senator Rand Paul would not be consenting to the nomination of Chad Meredith, effectively vetoing Biden’s move to put him on the bench.

“In considering potential district court nominees, the White House learned that Senator Rand Paul will not return a blue slip on Chad Meredith,” said White House spokesperson Andrew Bates on Friday, referring to the “blue slip” tradition that allows senators to veto judicial nominations from their home states. “Therefore, the White House will not nominate Mr Meredith.”

Had Biden nominated Meredith, the attorney’s promotion to the court would have been unusual in the lineup of Biden’s judicial picks. The president has made it a point to nominate people from underrepresented backgrounds, public defenders and those with experience in civil rights law to the court instead of the usual slate of corporate lawyers and prosecutors.

Meredith served as chief deputy general counsel to former Republican Kentucky governor Matt Bevin, who was in office from 2015 to 2019. In this role, Meredith helped the state defend a 2017 law that required doctors to perform ultrasounds and show images of the fetus to patients before performing an abortion. The law was ultimately upheld by a federal appeals court.

Working under Bevin, Meredith also helped put together the former governor’s slate of controversial pardons, which included people convicted of murder and rape, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

After Bevin left office, Meredith began working for a private law firm in Cincinnati, Ohio.

News of his nomination was first reported by the Courier-Journal on 29 June. Democrats started hounding the White House for an explanation behind its intention to nominate the anti-abortion lawyer on the heels of the 24 June US supreme court decision overturning the nationwide right to terminate pregnancies embedded in Roe v Wade.

In a group statement, a coalition of national abortion advocacy groups denounced news of the potential nomination.

“We are in this moment because anti-abortion judges were intentionally nominated at every level to take away our fundamental right to abortion – and given his record, we know Chad Meredith would be no exception,” the statement read.

When White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was questioned about the potential nomination, she said, “We make it a point here to not comment on any vacancy, whether it is on the executive branch or the judicial branch, especially those where the nomination has not been made yet.”

While the White House has been quiet behind its reasoning for considering Meredith, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said that Biden was close to taking up his judicial pick “as a personal friendship gesture”, the Kentucky senator told the New York Times. McConnell said that no specific deal between himself and Biden was made, and it simply represented the “collegiality” that exists between them.

Paul, who ultimately shut the nomination down, has not commented on his veto of Meredith’s nomination. McConnell suggested to the Times that Paul may believe it is his turn to pick a judicial nominee, though he has not made such an agreement on judicial nominees with Paul.

July 17, 2022 at 12:36AM Lauren Aratani

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