John K. Bush

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

  • AFJ Opposes
  • Court Circuit Court

On February 28, 2017, Judge Danny Boggs took senior status, and on May 8, 2017, President Trump nominated John K. Bush to fill the vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Alliance for Justice strongly opposes Bush’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Examined on his own merits, Bush is a deeply flawed candidate with a history of offensive writings and statements that under ordinary circumstances would quickly disqualify him for a role on the federal bench. Not the least of these is a talk he gave to a private Louisville club in which, stunningly, he chose, according to his written notes, to recite and apparently condone a quote by another author that employs an anti-gay slur: “I come here every year, and let me tell you one thing I’ve learned—this is no town to be giving people the impression you’re some kind of faggot.” Bush also has likened a woman’s right to decide whether to have an abortion to slavery, peddled discredited conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama, called for Nancy Pelosi to be “gag[ged]” when she made comments he disagreed with, and decried a change to passport forms that accounted for same-sex parents.

Despite his obvious lack of fitness for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench, Bush’s significant ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appear to have greased the skids for his nomination. Most notably, Bush’s wife, Bridget, has been extremely active in fundraising efforts that netted millions of dollars to benefit Senator McConnell’s 2014 reelection bid. In addition, in 2002 Bush authored an amicus brief on McConnell’s behalf in a case involving Kentucky’s campaign finance laws. And, in paperwork he submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bush explained that in November 2016, presumably after the presidential election, he met with Senator McConnell in Louisville where Bush “expressed [his] interest in serving as a federal judge.” Bush said that he has “been in contact with Leader McConnell and representatives from his office since that time.”

It’s also notable that President Trump nominated Bush only two months after a vacancy arose on the Sixth Circuit, leapfrogging vacancies on other courts that have existed for years. When a vacancy opened on the Sixth Circuit in 2013, Senators McConnell and Rand Paul refused to reach an agreement with President Obama on a nominee. The seat sat vacant for over 1,200 days after McConnell and Paul refused to return their blue slips on the unanimously well-qualified jurist Obama eventually put forward.

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