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Ted Cruz, conservatives oppose Trump judicial appointee over religious liberty concerns

Ted Cruz, conservatives oppose Trump judicial appointee over religious liberty concerns

United States Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. | Official portrait

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and various conservative groups have expressed opposition to a judicial nominee, citing concerns over religious liberty issues.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump nominated U.S. District Court Judge Halil Suleyman Ozerden of Mississippi to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

However, Sen. Cruz recently expressed opposition to the nomination, telling Politico in a statement published last week that he was concerned about the appointment.

“For a lifetime appointment on the court of appeals, I believe we should be looking for someone with a strong, demonstrated record as a constitutionalist,” stated Cruz.

“I have significant concerns that Judge Ozerden’s judicial record does not indicate that he meets that standard. For that reason, I do not believe he should be on the court of appeals, and I will oppose his nomination.”

A point of concern for some Republicans and conservatives was Ozerden’s 2012 ruling in Catholic Diocese of Biloxi Inc. v. Sebelius, which centered on the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate.

Ozerden granted a motion to dismiss the lawsuit by the Catholic diocese, arguing in part that the mandate was still being amended, according to Politico.

Others, including Kelly Shackelford, the president and CEO of the First Liberty Institute, have expressed opposition to Ozerden joining the Fifth Circuit.

“First Liberty Institute is grateful to Senator Cruz for his commitment to the Constitution and for his leadership in opposing Judge Sul Ozerden’s nomination to the Fifth Circuit,” explained Shackelford to Fox News.

“Elevating Judge Ozerden to a lifetime appointment on an influential federal appeals court would be a mistake.”

However, Ozerden is not without his supporters, with Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi expressing his support for the nomination back in June.

“His judicial and academic achievements alone qualify him for this position. But his good character, experience as a Navy fighter pilot, and record of volunteerism and community involvement also are exemplary,” stated Sen. Wicker earlier this year.

“His service will benefit the court and the people of the United States for many years to come. I am glad President Trump has nominated another outstanding judicial candidate, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure Judge Ozerden is confirmed swiftly.”

Although facing opposition for his pick to the Fifth Circuit, President Trump has nevertheless successfully overseen the nomination of 150 judges to lifetime federal appointments, according to Jennifer Bendery of The Huffington Post.

“Trump’s White House and Senate Republicans made a big push right out of the gate to confirm as many appeals court judges as possible precisely because of the concentrated power that rests with their courts. As a result, nearly 1 in every 4 seats on U.S. appeals courts is now filled by a judge appointed by Trump,” reported Bendery on Tuesday.

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