Bridget Bade (left) and Eric Miller testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee during their confirmation hearing Wednesday to become U.S. Circuit Judges for the Ninth Circuit. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Four Trump administration nominees coasted through their judicial confirmation hearing Wednesday, fielding only a handful of questions in a session that lasted less than an hour.

The hearing—for Ninth Circuit picks Eric Miller and Bridget Bade and court nominees Richard Hertling and Karin Immergut on separate panels—was convened by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, despite a congressional recess.

Two senators attended Wednesday’s showing—Republican Sens. Mike Crapo of Idaho, who presided over the hearing, and Orrin Hatch of Utah. Only Crapo questioned the nominees, while Hatch praised the nominees.

Democrats have opposed Grassley’s decision to hold hearings during recess. On Wednesday, the Alliance for Justice, a liberal judiciary-focused organization, called the session “a farce.”

“What we saw today was Republican senators shirking their constitutional responsibilities in order to pack more of Trump’s judicial nominees onto the federal bench with no scrutiny,” the group said.

Miller, a Perkins Coie partner, used the Wednesday hearing to respond to criticism over his views of tribal sovereignty. Civil rights-focused groups are opposing Miller’s nomination, in part because he previously opposed Native American tribes in litigation.

The attorney pointed to his role heading Perkins Coie’s appellate practice, acknowledging that “the firm’s clients have tended to be adverse to tribes in litigation.” Miller was also previously an assistant in the U.S. Solicitor General’s office.

In any of the cases he’s argued, he said, “my role has been that of an advocate. My job as an advocate is not to advance my own views but to advance the client’s views and to do the most that I can within the bounds of the law to zealously achieve the client’s interests.” He added that, as a judge, he would neutrally apply the law and principles reaffirmed by the Supreme Court, “that tribes are independent sovereigns, that treaties with tribes must be respected and must be understood as the tribes would have understood them.”

Miller, a former Justice Clarence Thomas clerk, has not received blue slips from either of his home state senators, Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell in Washington.

The other nominees on Wednesday were asked to discuss the legality of nationwide injunctions, as well as the role of judges and their approaches to the law.

Hertling, tapped for a seat on the Court of Federal Claims, emphasized the importance of impartiality and fact-finding for trial judges. He said they should also decide matters “promptly,” noting the large personal and financial stakes litigants have in cases.

Hertling, of counsel at Covington & Burling, said that “sitting in this room is a homecoming for me.” Hertling worked for over a decade, on and off, as a congressional lawyer on Capitol Hill.

Bade, a federal magistrate judge in Arizona, declined to weigh in on the legality of national injunctions, since it’s a matter currently being litigated in the courts. She noted that civil procedure rules were “silent” on the scope of an injunction, and said the Supreme Court has not yet “spoken” on the issue.

Immergut, a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge tapped for the district court in Oregon, also declined to comment specifically on the issue.

“[I]’m going to follow the law, but I do recognize the pros and cons that have been debated on nationwide injunctions, both that they might provide finality of an issue and uniformity, but counter to that is that a judge is deciding issues for the rest of the country, even though only certain parties are before them in their individual district,” she said.

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