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U.S. Senate votes 73-17 for Danielle Hunsaker to succeed Diarmuid O'Scannlain on 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; Wyden yes, Merkley no in rare split of Oregon senators

Danielle Hunsaker is now a judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The U.S. Senate confirmed President Donald Trump's nomination of the presiding judge of Washington County Circuit Court by a 73-17 vote on Wednesday, Nov. 6. As they announced previously, Sen. Ron Wyden voted yes, Sen. Jeff Merkley voted no, in a rare split of Oregon's two Democrats.

Hunsaker will succeed Diarmuid O'Scannlain, who took senior status at the end of 2016, 30 years after President Ronald Reagan named him to the court.

The 9th Circuit's jurisdiction covers nine states and two territories.

Wyden and Merkley forwarded her name on Aug. 28 as one of four potential nominees screened by a panel of Oregon lawyers, and Trump appointed her the very same day.

Merkley announced Friday he would oppose the nomination.

His full statement:

"I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with Judge Hunsaker, and have received some positive references about her work.

"I believe, however, that a lifetime appointment to these critically important circuit court positions should be reserved for individuals with more extensive experience to draw upon. I appreciate Judge Hunsaker's service on the state trial court bench in Washington County, but will not vote to confirm her at this time."

Wyden, through a spokesman, said later he would stand by the recommendation of the panel.

Hank Stern, Wyden's spokesman, said on the senator's behalf:

"After meeting with Judge Hunsaker, as well as reviewing her legal and judicial record before and after Gov. Brown appointed her to the Circuit Court in Washington County, Sen. Wyden intends to vote yes when this nomination reaches the Senate floor.

"(Wyden) believes Judge Hunsaker has displayed the judicial temperament needed for this position in the more than 3,500 cases the Judiciary Committee noted she has presided over."

Background in

commercial litigation

Hunsaker, 42, observes her second year as a Washington County circuit judge on Nov. 9. She succeeded Judge Suzanne Upton, who retired. Oregon Chief Justice Martha Walters named Hunsaker presiding judge in June, after Judge Charles Bailey resigned that top position abruptly in May. Bailey, who defeated a challenger to win a third term on the court in 2018, remains on the bench.

Hunsaker rejoined the Federalist Society in 2017 after having been a member for a few years the previous decade. Society members believe in a narrow interpretation of the U.S. Constitution based on its text and the original intent of its framers back in 1787.

Hunsaker was at the Portland firm of Larkin Vacusa Keyser, where she specialized in complex commercial litigation, from 2009 until she was named a judge in 2017. She was co-counsel for the Port of Portland in the Portland Harbor Superfund Cleanup cost allocation.

She also worked at the Portland firm of Stoel Rives.

Hunsaker earned a bachelor's degree in 2001, and her law degree in 2004, both from the University of Idaho. She was a clerk for Judge Paul Kelly Jr. of the U.S. 10th Circuit in 2004-05, and for U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman in Oregon in 2005-07, in addition to O'Scannlain.

After Trump nominated her on Aug. 28, Hunsaker appeared in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 25, and advanced to a vote of the full Senate after a committee vote on 16-6 on Oct. 24.

The other active judge from Oregon on the 9th Circuit is Susan Graber, who spent 10 years as a state appellate judge — including eight years on the Oregon Supreme Court — before her appointment by President Bill Clinton in 1998.

Except for O'Scannlain, the two other judges from Oregon with senior status — Edward Leavy, appointed by Reagan, and Alfred "Ted" Goodwin, appointed by Richard Nixon — also served many years as judges before they were named to the 9th Circuit.

Hunsaker is Trump's second nominee to fill the O'Scannlain vacancy.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Bounds was the first, and he had been on a list of potential nominees screened by a bipartisan panel and forwarded by Merkley and Wyden. But after the disclosure of some controversial writings for The Stanford Review — an alternative to the independent student-run Stanford Daily — members of the screening panel said they would have rejected his name because of his comments about the rights of minorities and women. Bounds apologized for his comments, but Wyden said Bounds did so only to salvage his chances.

The Bounds nomination never came to a Senate vote in July 2018 because South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott — the Senate's only African American Republican — announced he would vote no and deprive it of enough to win.

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NOTE: Revised with final vote count Wednesday.

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