On April 10, 2018, President Trump nominated Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. If confirmed, Wyrick, who is just 37 years old and has practiced law for just over ten years, will replace Judge David Russell, who assumed senior status on July 7, 2013. Patrick Wyrick is also on President Trump’s short list for the Supreme Court.
Despite his short legal career, Wyrick has made a name for himself as a protégé of current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, for whom he worked during Pruitt’s tenure as Oklahoma Attorney General. Wyrick has taken far-right stances on a number of controversial issues. While working as the Solicitor General for the State of Oklahoma, Wyrick assisted Pruitt in dismantling environmental protections and was criticized for enabling Pruitt’s tight-knit relationship with oil and gas lobbyists. As reported by The New York Times and the Natural Resources Defense Council, Wyrick was part of exchanges in which Pruitt received talking points provided by oil, coal and gas lobbyists against environmental regulations, repeated those talking points, nearly verbatim, and then later accepted campaign funds from those same special interests. Wyrick, with Pruitt, also advocated for restrictions on women’s reproductive health, helped dismantle protections for workers, defended a law that attempted to codify religious intolerance toward Muslims, and even came under fire for allegedly attempting to mislead the U.S. Supreme Court during his defense of Oklahoma’s death penalty protocol.
Wyrick’s nomination is in keeping with the Trump Administration’s stated goal of filling the federal bench with judges who are hostile to government regulations that protect health and safety, the environment, consumers and workers, having once stated, “I think we have all sorts of basic fundamental Constitutional problems with the nature of the current administrative state.”
As the Senate Judiciary Committee reviews Wyrick’s controversial positions and activities during government service, it is worth noting current committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s statement in opposing Caitlin Halligan, then Solicitor General of New York, to be a judge on the D.C. Circuit: “Some of my colleagues have argued that we should not consider this aspect of [Caitlin] Halligan’s record, because at the time she was working as the Solicitor General of New York. But, no one forced Ms. Halligan to approve and sign this brief.”
Likewise, as Sen. Ted Cruz stated as recently as May 2018, opposing Mark Bennett’s nomination to the Ninth Circuit based on Bennett’s work as Hawaii Attorney General, “[Bennett’s] record as Attorney General of Hawaii, I believe, represents an advocacy position that is extreme and inconsistent with fidelity to law, in particular, he was an aggressive advocate as attorney general for gay marriage, he was an aggressive advocate demonstrating hostility to the first amendment and political speech, and most significantly, he was-he is an aggressive advocate for undermining the Second Amendment.” Relying on this same standard that arguments of a government lawyer may be attributed to that lawyer himself, we believe that the positions Wyrick took in theAttorney General’s Office, “represent an advocacy position that is extreme[.]” His record indicates that, as a federal judge, he would be a threat to civil rights, the environment, and workers.
Notably, in 2015, President Obama nominated Suzanne Mitchell, a highly qualified Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma, to fill David Russell’s seat. She was voted out of committee on May 19, 2016, without opposition, and had the full support of both Oklahoma senators. Nevertheless, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never allowed her confirmation to move forward. In fact, no judges were confirmed to the Western District of Oklahoma during Obama’s presidency despite vacancies in three of the seven seats. President Trump has now nominated three white men, including Wyrick, to fill these vacancies.
Alliance for Justice opposes Patrick Wyrick’s nomination. Click here to read our opposition letter.