A Baptism of Fire in Texas Confirmation
Halil Suleyman “Sul” Ozerden, is a Turkish American United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi and best friends with Mick Mulvaney of the US Cabinet.
Despite the IS beard, Ted Cruz questions conservative credentials of Trump judicial nominee
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Cruz (R-Texas) questioned Halil Suleyman “Sul” Ozerden’s record as a constitutionalist. His remarks come amid broader Republican concerns about Ozerden’s judicial record.
“Looking at your record, as you know I’ve got significant concerns because I don’t see any positive substantive evidence of a judicial record that frankly we need strong constitutionalists on the Fifth Circuit,” Cruz said.
Trump nominated Ozerden in June, at the urging of acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, a friend of the nominee who served as one of his groomsmen. Ozerden also has significant support from his home state senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi.
But a senior GOP aide expressed doubt that the Senate will confirm Ozerden amid Republicans’ concerns.
Ozerden has come under particular scrutiny for granting the Obama administration’s motion to dismiss a case from the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi that challenged the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate in 2012. Ozerden said that the case was not ripe for a formal decision because of the regulation’s status.
“I have to say there are a lot things about that opinion that concern me,” Cruz said, and pressed Ozerden on the reasoning for denying the plaintiffs oral arguments.
Cruz was not the only Republican senator to raise concerns about the Obamacare case. Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) were among the senators asking for Ozerden to explain his decision.
Ozerden defended his record as a constitutionalist and said that he was merely following Fifth Circuit precedent. He said that a ruling on the Obamacare case would have been hypothetical and that he dismissed the case without prejudice so the case could be filed again.
“The notion that I am hostile to religious liberty is simply not accurate,” Ozerden said.
Republican senators may sink another Trump judicial nominee
Senators have raised concerns about Halil Suleyman ‘Sul’ Ozerden’s judicial record and possible issues with a background check.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also said in a brief interview that he too had concerns about the Obamacare ruling.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who spoke with Ozerden about his judicial record over the weekend, responded “I don’t know” when asked whether the Senate would confirm Ozerden.
Trump nominated Ozerden in June at Mulvaney’s urging. Both Ozerden and Mulvaney attended Georgetown, and the acting chief of staff was a groomsman in his wedding. A spokesperson for Mulvaney did not respond to a request for comment.
Ozerden also has strong backing from Republican Sen. Wicker, who represents his home state of Mississippi.
“I do fully support him. I think he is an excellent choice,” Wicker reiterated Tuesday. “I think he would be a solid member of the conservative majority and the conservative movement.” Wicker added that he remained confident Ozerden would be confirmed.
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who said he recommended Ozerden to serve on the federal judiciary with the late Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, also praised Ozerden’s credentials.
“He’s an outstanding person, got a good education,” Lott said, describing Ozerden as “highly respected in the federal judiciary.” Lott added that nothing in Ozerden’s record is of concern, but conceded that “you could comb through all those decisions and find some where you’d say ‘why this, why that?’”
Mulvaney pushed then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to nominate Ozerden despite concerns over the rate at which his opinions have been overturned on appeal, mostly from judges praised by conservatives.
Conservative judicial groups also have not been friendly to Ozerden’s nomination. Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, which has spent millions supporting Trump’s nominees, wrote in National Review last year when Ozerden’s name was discussed that “Mississippi is as red a state as they come. It sure seems like we could do better than Judge Ozerden there.”
Ozerden is the latest White House judicial nominee to face scrutiny from Senate Republicans. Although most have sailed through the GOP-controlled Senate, which has made confirming Trump’s nominees a top priority, some have run into obstacles. Most recently, Michael Bogren, who Trump nominated to serve on a federal district court in Michigan, withdrew his nomination amid opposition from Senate Republicans over a brief he wrote while defending the City of East Lansing.