(March 6) For a very important, newly opening federal judicial seat, the best possible nominee is the principal deputy solicitor general of the United States, Jeff Wall.

Wall, who on just Wednesday was arguing the Trump administration’s position at the Supreme Court in a key abortion-related case out of Louisiana, ought to be an obvious contender for the spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Right now, he isn’t yet being mentioned among the front-runners, but that should change. His resume and demeanor are right out of central casting for the position being vacated by Judge Thomas Griffith, who announced March 5 that he would retire.

Wall, who grew up in a blue-collar family in a small town in Georgia, earned his way to degrees at two prestigious universities: a bachelor’s from Georgetown University and a juris doctorate from the University of Chicago. He clerked for prominent, moderate-conservative judge J. Harvey Wilkinson III of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (and married Wilkinson’s daughter) and then for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He was a nonpolitical appointee as an assistant solicitor general for five years under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

During the early Obama years, his boss was Elena Kagan, now a Supreme Court justice. They reportedly got along well personally and professionally, despite their differing legal philosophies. This is important.

The D.C. Circuit is known colloquially as “the second most important court in the land” because so many key cases go through it before reaching the Supreme Court. While Kagan is a liberal, she is one of the two among the “liberal bloc” (Stephen Breyer is the other) who are most likely to join conservatives in complicated cases where some legal issues break less clearly along ideological lines. Conservatives hoping to attract Kagan’s acquiescence in such cases need to know how she thinks: what sorts of arguments appeal to her and what sort of legal questions she will want answered. It would help conservatives immensely to have a judge on the D.C. Circuit who can anticipate Kagan’s concerns and incorporate good answers to them within the circuit’s decisions….

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