A leading conservative intellectual who championed the nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court has been nominated to serve as a federal district judge in Kentucky.
Justin R. Walker, 37, a star in the Federalist Society and co-director of University of Louisville's new Ordered Liberty Program, which promotes "federalism, separation of powers, originalism, natural rights, and the common good," was nominated Wednesday by President Donald Trump.
Walker, who clerked for Kavanaugh when he sat on U.S. Court of Appeals and for Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, would succeed Judge Joseph McKinley in the Western District of Kentucky.
A partner at Dinsmore & Shohl, Walker has written articles denouncing "unelected bureaucrats and embracing limited government and other conservative ideals."
But Kate Crosby, who helps run the Louisville chapter of the American Constitution Society, a group of progressive lawyers, said in appearances as a guest speaker Walker has been "gracious, warm and engaging and impressed me as a thoughtful, respectful and willing listener."
She said those qualities "lead me to believe he will be a strong addition to the federal bench."
At Dinsmore, where Walker started this year, Kenyon Meyer, managing partner of its Louisville office, said he "loves to explore ideas with people of all views" and "he's a great guy to have a beer with."
While Walker has mostly done appellate work, bringing his "unique experience at the highest levels of the American judicial system," Meyer said he has also been willing to "get down in the trenches." For example, Meyer said Walker represented a drug defendant last month in a trial in federal court.
U of L law professor Sam Marcosson said: "I don't agree with him on everything, to say the least, but he has been thoughtful and reasonable and open-minded and wonderful to our students. He is the kind of person who I think would be wonderful on the bench as he has been at the law school."
Walker would need to be confirmed by the Senate, but Carl Tobias, a law professor at University of Richmond who follows judicial nominations, said he is "well-qualified, young and conservative" and is likely to easily win confirmation, especially given the backing of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
In a statement, McConnell said, "Justin is a principled attorney, a prominent legal scholar, and will make an outstanding federal judge. He has already had a remarkable career and has shown a deep commitment to our constitutional order."
Walker is a graduate of St. Xavier High School in Louisville and was a summa cum laude graduate of Duke University and amagna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, where he wrote for the law review.
He was a speechwriter for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, practiced in the Washington office of Gibson Dunn Crutcher, and in 2001 was named to Forbes' "30 Under 30 Law & Policy List."
Walker made dozens of national media appearances in 2018 to support Kavanaugh's embattled nomination and tried to dispel any notion that Kavanaugh would disappoint conservatives, the National Law Journal reported.