For the second time in as many weeks, the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate has confirmed a California-based nominee to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit over the objections of the state’s two Democratic senators.
The Senate voted 53-46 on Tuesday to approve the nomination of Daniel Collins, a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris withheld the so-called blue slips for Collins that home-state senators traditionally return to the Senate Judiciary to indicate their sign off on a nominee for a federal judicial seat based in their state. The full Senate vote comes just a week after the full Senate voted 52-45 to confirm Jenner & Block partner Kenneth Lee to the Ninth Circuit, whom the senators also opposed.
While the senators’ opposition to Lee hinged on his initial failure to hand over controversial college writings to judicial vetters, with Collins, they raised concerns about what their judicial selection committee called issues of “temperament and rigidity.”
“In particular, we were told that Mr. Collins has a history of taking strong litigation positions for no reason other than attempting to overturn precedent and push legal boundaries,” the senators said in a joint statement in January.
Collins, a graduate of Harvard University and Stanford Law School, served as a summer associate at Munger in 1988 before clerking for Judge Dorothy Nelson at the Ninth Circuit and Justice Antonin Scalia at the U.S. Supreme Court. He served as an attorney adviser in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel from 1989 to 1991, and as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Central District of California from 1992 to 1996 before returning to Munger, where he made partner in 1998. Collins served as associate deputy attorney general from 2001 to 2003 before returning to Munger. where he’s practiced ever since with a focus on appellate and complex civil litigation.
According to financial disclosures Collins made to the Senate during the nomination process, he earned $1,228,852 in partnership income from Munger in 2017, $900,600 in 2018, and had made $120,100 at the time of the filing Feb. 6. According to the attached financial statement, Collins has $587,707 in the firm’s capital account. Munger had profits per equity partner of $1,838,000 for 2018, according to The American Lawyer.
The Senate disclosure forms also indicated that Collins has an undisclosed amount in the firm’s defined-contribution plans and cash balance defined benefit plan, which he planned to roll over into individual retirement accounts upon confirmation.
Collins’ confirmation means that the Ninth Circuit now will have six judges appointed by President Donald Trump among its 27 current active judges. Before Collins and Lee, Judge Bridget Bade, who previously served as a magistrate judge in the District of Arizona, was confirmed to the court in March in a 78-21 vote. Trump also appointed Circuit Judges Mark Bennett, Ryan Nelson and Eric Miller to Ninth Circuit seats based in Hawaii, Idaho and Washington, respectively.
Harris and Feinstein have objected to Trump’s nomination of Kirkland & Ellis partner Daniel Bress to fill another vacant Ninth Circuit seat left empty after former Chief Judge Alex Kozinski abruptly retired in 2017 amid sexual harassment allegations. In January the senators released a joint statement saying that Bress was based in Washington, D.C., and is young and lacks judicial experience. The senators last week both released statements again raising objections to Bress, saying he has voted in Virginia for the past decade and isn’t based in California. Bress is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where both California senators sit, for a nomination hearing Wednesday morning.