On May 3, 2019, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Peter Phipps to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals for the seat previously held by Judge Thomas Vanaskie. Just last year, Phipps was nominated and confirmed to be a United States District Court Judge in the Western District of Pennsylvania, filling the seat of retired Judge Terrence F. McVerry. Since that time, AFJ has reviewed Phipps’s short record as a District Court judge and found Phipps has authored only eight opinions.
This is Trump’s fourth nominee to the Third Circuit since taking office, and all four of those nominees have been white men. In contrast, President Obama nominated Rebecca Ross Haywood to the Third Circuit in March 2016 and Haywood would have been the first African American woman to serve on the Third Circuit. However, her nomination was blocked because Senator Pat Toomey never returned his blue slip. In response, the Senate Judiciary Committee – respecting the blue slip tradition at that time – did not consider Haywood’s nomination.
In a press statement, Senator Bob Casey stated that he did not believe Phipps’s “six months on that bench is sufficient experience or preparation.” Moreover, Senator Casey emphasized how, “[l]ike justices of the Supreme Court, circuit court judges are often asked to decide questions of law that can have an enormous impact on Americans’ lives, and I have significant concerns about Judge Phipps’ judicial and constitutional philosophy.” As a result, Senator Casey will not return his blue slip for Phipps’s nomination.
In addition, during his initial confirmation hearing for the district court, Phipps joined many of Trump’s nominees in his refusal to answer whether he believed Brown v. Board of Education was correctly decided.