Ryan Nelson, the general counsel for Melaleuca who’s been nominated to be a judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, was grilled by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday about his views on climate change and LGBT rights and his legal work for the Idaho Falls company, but came in for high praise from Republicans on the panel for the breadth of his legal experience.
That experience includes work as an assistant attorney general for the environment and natural resources division of the U.S. Department of Justice, a position in which he oversaw 500 appellate cases and personally argued 13 appeals in nine different circuits.
“Not many practicing lawyers can speak to that kind of experience with our federal legal system,” declared Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, who presided over the hearing.
Idaho Sen. Jim Risch introduced Nelson. “Ryan has a deep understanding of the unique issues involving land and water that directly impact the West and are so important to our western culture and our western values,” Risch told the panel.
Nelson, who was accompanied by his wife and seven children and his parents, heaped praise back on Risch and Crapo. Of Crapo, he said, “He has been an Idaho and national political legend for three decades, and he helped kindle a spark in my youth that led me to the law and ultimately guided me to this hearing today.”
Crapo also noted that Nelson is from his hometown of Idaho Falls, and said he’s known Nelson’s parents for “many years.”
Of Risch, Nelson said, “Sen. Risch is Idaho’s political pugilist. He fights hard for causes he believes in. He’s someone you want in your corner, and I cannot thank him enough for being in mine.”
In January, President Trump nominated Nelson to be solicitor at the Department of Interior, and that nomination was approved by the Senate Energy Committee, but it was withdrawn in May in light of his nomination to the 9th Circuit. If confirmed, he’d replace Judge N. Randy Smith of Pocatello, who plans to take senior status on Aug. 11, his 69th birthday. Smith, a former Idaho district judge, was appointed to the court in 2007 by President George Q. Bush.
Nelson told the senators, “If confirmed, I commit to follow and defend the Constitution as written, and the rule of law in all places, at all times, and at all costs.”
The 9th Circuit is the nation’s largest circuit court, with 29 judgeships, including one based in Idaho.