Eastern District of Texas judicial nominee Sean Jordan encountered little resistance at a sparsely attended Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday.
Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both R-Texas, lavished praise on Jordan while Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, pressed him on various U.S. Supreme Court precedents. Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, was not present for the hearing, but Cornyn said at the end of the session that he was hopeful Graham would soon hold a vote for Jordan and Mark Pittman, a nominee for the Northern District of Texas who was also questioned Tuesday.
Jordan is with Jackson Walker in Austin, where he co-chairs the firm’s Appellate Practice Group, and previously served in the office of Solicitor General for the State of Texas.
Cruz, a former Texas solicitor general who hired Jordan as an assistant solicitor general and later promoted him to a deputy solicitor general, praised Jordan’s service in the U.S. Army as an infantryman and paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division.
“I will tell you, Sean brings his background as a paratrooper to practicing law, because in major cases, Sean was always the person you could count on to jump on the grenade and handle the most difficult issues,” Cruz said.
Cornyn asked Jordan, a Connecticut native who attended the University of Texas at Austin for undergrad and law school, to describe his military service and how he came to settle in Texas.
“I consider my experience in the military transformative—it was a tremendous honor to serve our country,” Jordan said. “People I met in the Army strongly recommended I go to the University of Texas. That is how I wound up being in Texas. It was the best decision I ever made.”
Blumenthal, the only Democrat in attendance, noted that Jordan participated in preparation of amicus curiae briefs for Texas in two landmark gun control cases, District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 and McDonald v. Chicago in 2010. Blumenthal noted that the Judiciary Committee will soon hold hearings on a so-called red flag statute, which allows law enforcement officers to seek a court order taking guns away from someone who is considered dangerous.
“Do you view that statute as inconsistent with the positions you have taken in Heller and McDonald?” Blumenthal asked.
“I believe the Heller decision acknowledges there is an individual right to keep and bear arms. Because I’m appearing before this committee as a nominee, I believe it would be inappropriate to comment on pending legislation,” Jordan said.
Blumenthal also asked Jordan if he believed Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision desegregating schools, was correctly decided.
“That is a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court,” Jordan replied. “It overturned Plessy. I would faithfully apply that precedent as I would all Supreme Court precedent.”
Blumenthal went on to ask Jordan to ask if he believed Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling declaring the right to abortions, was correctly decided. Jordan replied that he didn’t “think it would be appropriate to comment on its correctness. I assure you I would faithfully apply Roe and every Supreme Court decision.
Blumenthal later remarked that he was “disappointed” with Jordan’s responses to those questions. “I believe personal beliefs are important. Often applying the law isn’t simply a rote or algorithmic exercise. I hope you will have the courage of commitment because you will be the face and voice of justice if you are confirmed.”
Blumenthal has repeatedly questioned President Donald Trump’s nominees about Brown and Roe. A question on Brown v. Board of Education tripped up Wendy Vitter, a district court nominee for Louisiana, who faced backlash from civil rights groups afterward. Her nomination is currently pending.
“I don’t mean to be coy,” Vitter said during her April 2018 hearing. “But I think I can get into a difficult, difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions—which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with.”
She added that the ruling “is Supreme Court precedent. It is binding. If I were honored to be confirmed, I would be bound by it and of course I would uphold it.”