Politics & Government

Senate narrowly confirms this Idaho lawyer for powerful 9th Circuit appeals court

Ryan Nelson
Ryan Nelson

The U.S. Senate has narrowly confirmed one of President Donald Trump’s nominees to the nation’s largest federal appeals court.

Senators voted 51-44 on Thursday to appoint Idaho attorney Ryan Douglas Nelson to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The San Francisco-based court hears cases from Idaho and eight other Western states.

Nelson most recently served as general counsel of health care and home products company Melaleuca. He takes over a seat vacated by N. Randy Smith, a nominee of Republican President George W. Bush.

Only one Democrat, Doug Jones of Alabama, voted in favor of Nelson. The Leadership Conference, a coalition of civil and human rights groups, accused Nelson of being a conservative ideologue who had a troubling record on the environment.

Idaho’s two Republican senators, Mike Crapo and James Risch, supported Nelson’s nomination. Crapo said in a statement that Nelson understands that a judge is not supposed to make laws.

“Ryan has been widely recognized by his colleagues for his judgment and legal expertise and will serve our nation well on the 9th Circuit,” said Crapo, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a news release.

Risch said: “A native Idahoan, Ryan will bring a valuable perspective to the court — upholding our way of life, respecting the rule of law, and rejecting judicial activism.”

Nelson worked in the federal government before joining Melaleuca in 2009. His jobs included as special counsel for Supreme Court nominations to the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, deputy general counsel to the White House Office of Management and Budget, and deputy assistant attorney general in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department.

Nelson earned his bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and his law degree from BYU Law School.

He is expected to maintain chambers in Idaho.