Chad Meredith: Biden intends to appoint conservative anti-abortion lawyer for federal judgeship, Kentucky Democrats say
The prospective nominee, conservative attorney Chad Meredith, would be appointed for life in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
Kentucky Democrats expressed outrage at Meredith’s expected nomination to the court before it was clear a vacancy would arise on the bench. But on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Karen K. Caldwell of the Eastern District of Kentucky was added to a public list of future federal judiciary positions, paving the way for Meredith to potentially join the court. The list of US courts shows that Caldwell shared her decision to achieve “senior” status as a judge for the court late last month. By assuming senior status, US courts say, judges can choose to handle a reduced number of cases; Regardless of that caseload, the status creates a vacancy at the court where they serve.
Biden’s prospective nomination comes as the president pledged to do everything in his power to fight for abortion rights after last week’s US Supreme Court decision overturned Roe v. Wade. With the elimination of the federal constitutional law on abortion, states must determine abortion law unless Congress acts.
Meredith previously worked as an assistant attorney for then-Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, defending a state law that requires doctors performing abortions to first perform an ultrasound and describe the image on the monitor to the patient.
In court in 2018, Meredith argued that the law would ensure women were given more information about their decision because “not every patient understands the ramifications of the abortion process.”
“This is exactly the heartland of what states are allowed to do to regulate medicine,” Meredith said at the time. “There are a number of patients who don’t understand the nature of the fetus within themselves.”
A spokesman for Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky told CNN that the congressman “was briefed by White House staffers of the White House’s intention to nominate Meredith.” And Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear said in a news conference Thursday his team was briefed “late last week” on Biden’s intention to nominate Meredith.
“As far as I know, it hasn’t been filed at the moment, which I hope at least means it’s on hold,” Beshear said.
Beshear had strong words for Biden, saying, “If the President makes that nomination, there’s no justification for it.”
The governor also criticized Meredith’s involvement in Bevin’s decision to issue hundreds of pardons, including forgiveness for a variety of violent crimes including murder and rape, before leaving office. There were accusations from critics that some of the pardons were political in nature, which Bevin denied at the time.
“I don’t know how the president can say he’s pro-public safety when he’s making this nomination,” Beshear added.
When asked for comment, a White House official said, “We do not typically comment on positions in the executive branch or in the judiciary.”
Yarmuth told The Courier-Journal that he believes Meredith’s prospective nomination “is part of a larger court nomination deal between the president and Mitch McConnell” — namely, to get the Senate minority leader to approve Biden’s future federal nominations not to stay longer.
Brian Fallon, the co-founder and executive director of Demand Justice, a left-leaning organization focused on America’s courts, on Friday criticized Biden’s potential nomination of Meredith as a contrast to his track record of nominating judges.
“One of the unqualified success stories of the Biden presidency was his prioritization of nominating judges and the elevation of public defenders and civil rights attorneys. I don’t understand why you would break that record to make a bad deal with McConnell – on the heels of (the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade) no less,” Fallon tweeted.
CNN has reached out to Meredith and McConnell’s office for comment.
There are 119 current or anticipated lower court vacancies. The Biden administration has so far named a candidate for 34 of those vacancies.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Ariane de Vogue contributed to this report.