“But it’s not just that. Oldham is so extreme that he doesn’t just disagree with federal protections; he actually questions their constitutionality,” Sittenfeld said. “He said, and I quote, ‘One of the reasons why the administrative state is enraging is not that you disagree with what the EPA does — although I do disagree with a lot of what it does. That’s not the thing that makes it enraging. It’s the illegitimacy of it.’”
When contacted for comment, the Office of the Texas Governor told Yahoo News via email, “Andrew Oldham has an impressive and extensive background, as well as a robust understanding of the Constitution and the rule of law. Mr. Oldham has served with dedication and distinction as chief legal adviser in the General Counsel’s office, and the justice system would be well-served by his appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Governor Abbott wholeheartedly supports his appointment to the court.”
Even without a Supreme Court vacancy, Trump is reshaping the judiciary with his nominations to the U.S. Court of Appeals, which comprises 11 circuit courts with jurisdiction over different regions of the country. All of the speakers on the press call expressed concern for what Oldham’s confirmation would mean for the Fifth Circuit, which covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Yahoo News asked whether Oldham’s ascent would have implications outside those states.
Joanne Spalding, the chief climate counsel for the Sierra Club, replied that the Fifth Circuit’s decisions are not binding for other regions, but they are persuasive and could be cited in any other district. “There are many extreme decisions that are never actually reviewed by the Supreme Court. They stand and are binding by the states,” she said.
Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, added that the Supreme Court used to release opinions on about 150 cases a year but that this figure has been chopped roughly in half over the decades. That means, she said, that appeal courts more often issue rulings that become the law of the land.
“It is also why the administration is focusing on and prioritizing filling seats on the courts of appeal because they know how critically important and powerful these judges and courts are, particularly given the fewer number of cases heard by the Supreme Court.”
Aron noted that if he is confirmed by the Senate, Oldham would be Trump’s fifth appointee to the circuit courts. “It’s extremely worrisome and reflects an extreme case of court-packing,” she said.
Kristine Lucius, executive vice president for policy for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said key civil rights questions — such as voting rights and educational opportunities — have historically been raised in the Fifth Circuit, whose population includes more people of color than any other circuit.