By Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO at First Liberty Institute
President Trump promised the American people that he would nominate constitutional conservatives to the federal bench. He has delivered on that promise in spades. But establishment politicians are pushing President Trump to nominate Judge Sul Ozerden to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
That would be a big mistake.
Ozerden is not a conservative trial judge. His judicial philosophy departs from the legacy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia and is unlike that of Justice Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, not to mention the two dozen federal appellate judges and dozens more federal trial court nominees President Trump nominated.
Not all Republicans are constitutional conservatives. Indeed, President Trump came to office on the promise to shun business-as-usual Washington, draining the swamp of establishment types that project a conservative façade, but never deliver. His conservative political agenda — institutionalizing religious liberty, enacting tax reform, America-first foreign policy — is evidence of his commitment to delivering on that conservative agenda.
But now, just when President Trump has an opportunity to solidify a conservative majority on the Fifth Circuit — of which my home state of Texas is a part, along with Louisiana and Mississippi — establishment Republicans are pressuring the president to nominate one of their own.
As his past decisions indicate, Ozerden is not a judge like those the president promised to nominate: judges who will protect religious liberty and the lives of the unborn. Take a recent decision by the Fifth Circuit as an example of how one vote could dangerously shift the balance away from the protection of our first freedom: religious liberty.