By a close vote of 49-46 along party lines, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Michael Truncale to be a U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Texas in Beaumont.
Truncale, 62, has worked his entire legal career at Orgain Bell & Tucker in Beaumont, where he’s a partner. He’s an arbitrator and mediator and also practices civil defense in federal and state courts in the areas of energy, transportation, products liability and more, according to the profile on his firm’s site. He serves as local counsel in patent litigation in the Eastern District and has been a mediator in more than 2,000 cases in the Eastern District and in state courts.
“The Senate is continuing to deliver on its promise to the American people to confirm principled, constitutionalist judges, and I have no doubt Texans in the Eastern District will be well served by Michael’s professionalism and commitment to the rule of law,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a statement.
Truncale didn’t respond to a call or email seeking comment before deadline.
The AFL-CIO, a labor union, opposed Truncale’s nomination in a Feb. 6 letter that said he has a partisan record, and that the organization was concerned about his ability to be open minded and fair to litigants.
Opposition also came from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 civil rights organizations.
“Mr. Truncale is a partisan, conservative ideologue whose past statements show a hostility to immigrant rights, voting rights, reproductive freedom, workers’ rights, LGBT rights, campaign finance limits, environmental protection, common-sense gun control and the role of the federal government. Mr. Truncale does not have the neutrality and objectivity necessary to serve in a lifetime position as a federal judge,” said the conference’s letter by president and CEO Vanita Gupta, who was head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice under the Obama administration.
Truncale was a candidate for a Texas congressional seat in 2012, but he lost in the Republican primary. The blog The Vetting Room, which covers federal judicial nominations, wrote that during his campaign, Truncale ran as a conservative and expressed support for limited government, fiscal conservatism, rolling back government regulations, overturning Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood. In an interview he expressed his judicial philosophy that judges shouldn’t legislate from the bench and should look to the plain meaning of the U.S. Constitution.
“That’s how we’ve got into a lot of trouble now. That’s why government has gotten too big. That’s why we’ve forgotten about the Tenth Amendment, which means that power is to be retained by the people and by the states,” Truncale said, according to The Vetting Room.
There was controversy over a statement he made about immigration, that, “We must not continue to have the maggots coming in,” the blog noted. However, the U.S. Department of Justice later said that Truncale did not say “maggots,” but actually “magnets,” meaning incentives like entitlement programs that drew undocumented immigrants into the country.
The blog wrote that these campaign statements could raise concerns about his impartiality as a judge, but in looking just at Truncale’s legal record, that he was qualified.
“His experience in complex civil litigation prepares him well for many of the matters he would address as a federal court judge, while his experience with white collar defense would help him on the criminal side,” said the blog.