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Senate Confirms Another Trump Nominee, 36, to Lifetime Judgeship During Lame Duck Session


The Republican-led U.S. Senate on Wednesday, during a lame duck session, confirmed Department of Justice lawyer Katherine A. Crytzer, 36, to a lifetime judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

The vote was 48-47.

A vacancy opened up on the court in early September, when Judge Pamela Reeves died after a two-year battle with cancer. Reeves was the first woman Article III judge to sit on Tennessee’s Eastern District Court. Crytzer will be the second.

Crytzer has been working as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the DOJ’s Office of Legal Policy, where her duties include providing legal and policy advice to the assistant attorney general and assisting President Donald Trump in filling vacancies on the federal bench.

According to a magazine at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), where Crytzer graduated in 2006, she has had an “influential role” in the Trump administration’s selecting of federal judicial nominees and helped “shepherdBrett Kavanaugh through his tumultuous Senate confirmation hearings.

Crytzer is a former Assistant United States Attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky. She was also employed by elite private practice law firm Kirkland & Ellis, LLP, departing Attorney General Bill Barr’s former law firm. After earning her J.D. from Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, Crytzer went on clerk for Judge Raymond W. Gruender of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Notably, Crytzer’s prior nomination to be Inspector General of the Tennessee Valley Authority was withdrawn earlier this year. Crytzer angered Senate Democrats who thought she did not give satisfactory answers when pressed on President Trump’s purge of Inspectors General.

“Over the past several months, the president has unceremoniously removed, replaced or reassigned Inspectors General who dared to do their jobs and conduct oversight on the administration,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) at the end of June. “Unfortunately, during her confirmation process, Ms. Crytzer has been unwilling to demonstrate that she will serve independently as IG. Given the president’s dismissals and demotions, we need strong and independent watchdogs in these posts who will be willing to speak out against unethical behavior and injustice. Ms. Crytzer has demonstrated she is unwilling to speak truth to power and, ultimately, unable to serve as an independent, non-partisan and unbiased Inspector General.”

Progressives and Democrats have decried Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) hypocritical and norm-shattering confirmations of President Trump’s judicial nominees during a lame duck session.

What is a lame duck session? The Senate defines it as follows:

When Congress (or either chamber) reconvenes in an even-numbered year following the November general elections to consider various items of business. Some lawmakers who return for this session will not be in the next Congress. Hence, they are informally called “lame duck” members participating in a “lame duck” session.

2020 is in an even-numbered year following a general election that President Trump lost to Joe Biden. But McConnell’s Senate marches on while it still can.

On Nov. 18, Sen. McConnell et al. confirmed 33-year-old Kathryn Kimball Mizelle to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Thomas L. Kirsch II as Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s successor on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. And there is more to come.

All eyes are on the Georgia runoff elections as the Republican hold on the Senate hangs in the balance. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) faces off with Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock, and Sen. David Perdue (R) is up against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. If Republicans lose these elections, VP-elect Kamala Harris emerges as a potential tiebreaker. If Republicans maintain the majority, they can block Biden’s nominees.

Jerry Lambe contributed to this report.

[Image via Jon Cherry/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.