President Joe Biden intends to nominate an anti-abortion Republican lawyer to a federal judgeship, two Kentucky Democrats informed of the decision say.
The prospective nominee, conservative lawyer Chad Meredith, would serve in a lifetime appointment to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
Meredith’s prospective appointment was first reported by The Courier-Journal.
Kentucky Democrats expressed outrage about Meredith’s expected nomination to the court before it was clear that a vacancy would emerge on the bench. But on Friday, US District Court Judge Karen K. Caldwell of the Eastern District of Kentucky was added to a public list of future federal judicial vacancies, clearing a path for Meredith to potentially join the court.
The US Courts list indicates that Caldwell shared her decision late last month to move into “senior” status as a judge for the court. By taking senior status, US Courts states, judges may choose to handle a reduced caseload; regardless of that caseload, the status creates a vacancy on the court they serve on.
Biden’s prospective nomination comes just as the President is pledging to use everything within his power to fight for abortion rights in the wake of last week’s US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. With the federal constitutional right to an abortion eliminated, states will have to determine abortion rights unless Congress acts.
Meredith previously worked as then-Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s deputy counsel, defending a state law that requires doctors performing abortions to first perform an ultrasound and describe the image on the monitor to the patient.
In court in 2018, Meredith argued that the law would make sure women were more fully informed of their decision because “not every patient understands the consequences of the abortion procedure.”
“This is right in the heartland of what states are permitted to do to regulate medicine,” Meredith said at the time. “There are a number of patients who don’t understand the nature of the fetus within them.”
A spokesperson for Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky told CNN that the congressman “was informed of the White House’s intent to nominate Meredith by White House staff.” And Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear said in a news conference on Thursday that his team was informed about Biden’s intention to nominate Meredith “late last week.”
“My understanding right now is it has not been submitted, which I hope at the very least means it’s on pause,” Beshear said.
Beshear had strong words for Biden, saying: “If the President makes that nomination, it is indefensible.”
The governor also criticized Meredith’s involvement in Bevin’s decision to issue hundreds of pardons before leaving office, which included forgiveness for a variety of violent acts such as murder and rape. There were accusations from critics that some of the pardons had been political in nature, which Bevin denied at the time.
“I don’t know how the President can say he’s for public safety if he makes this nomination,” Beshear added.
Asked for comment, a White House official said, “As a matter of practice, we don’t comment on executive or judicial vacancies.”
Yarmuth told The Courier-Journal he believed Meredith’s prospective nomination “is part of some larger deal on judicial nominations between the President and Mitch McConnell” – namely, to get the Senate minority leader to agree to no longer hold up Biden’s future federal nominations.
Brian Fallon, the co-founder and executive director of Demand Justice, a left-leaning organization focused on America’s courts, on Friday criticized Biden’s potential nomination of Meredith as a contrast to his record on judicial nominations.
“One of the unqualified success stories of the Biden presidency was his prioritizing of judicial nominations and elevation of public defenders and civil rights lawyers. I don’t get why you would undercut that record to make a bad deal with McConnell - on the heels of (the Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Roe v. Wade) no less,” Fallon tweeted.
CNN has reached out to Meredith and McConnell’s office for comment.
There are 119 current or expected lower court vacancies. The Biden administration has named a nominee for 34 of those vacancies so far.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Ariane de Vogue contributed to this report.