John Broomes – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas

John Broomes, a corporate lawyer based in Wichita, brings a diverse background to the bench, having worked in the U.S. Navy, as an engineer, and as a manager at Koch Industries before changing careers to become a lawyer.  This experience makes Broomes an unusual choice for a judicial nominee.

Background

John Wesley Broomes was born in New Orleans in 1969.  Broomes attended the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a B.S. in Petroleum Engineering in 1991.  Upon graduation, Broomes joined the U.S. Navy as a Lieutenant and Submarine Officer.  After serving for five years, Broomes moved to Wichita, Kansas to be an Engineer and Ranch Supervisor at Castle Rock Ranch, Inc.

In 1997, Broomes left Castle Rock Ranch to move to the communications company Omnipoint Communications, Inc. as a Project Manager.  He left the position that same year to Koch Industries, Inc., working as a Project Manager.  In 2000, Broomes was elevated to be a Laboratory Manager.

In 2000, Broomes left Koch Industries, Inc. to attend Washburn University School of Law in Topeka.  After graduating, Broomes served as a Law Clerk to U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Bostwick on the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, and then to U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on the same court.

In 2007, Broomes joined the Wichita office of the Hinkle Law Firm LLC. as an Associate.  In 2010, Broomes was elevated to be a Partner at the office, where he currently works.

History of the Seat

Broomes has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.  This vacancy opened when Judge J. Thomas Marten moved to senior status on May 1, 2017, a move that had been announced a year in advance.[1]

In December 2016, Broomes expressed his interest in a federal judgeship with Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran.  After interviews with Roberts and Moran, Broomes’ name was submitted to the White House.  Broomes interviewed with the White House Counsel’s Office and the Department of Justice on May 19, 2017.  He was officially nominated on September 7, 2017.

Political Activity

Broomes, a Republican, has donated both time and money to other Republicans running for office.  Broomes discloses in his Senate Judiciary Questionnaire that he serves as Republican Precinct Committeeman for Payne Township, a position he has held since 2010.  Furthermore, Broomes has served on the campaign committee of Kansas Republican Dennis Hedke.  Broomes has also donated to former Republican Congressmen Mike Pompeo and Todd Tiahrt, as well as the Presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney in 2012, and Ted Cruz in 2016.[2]

Legal Experience

Other than his experience as a law clerk on the federal bench, Broomes’ primary legal experience is his ten years of practice at the Hinkle Law Firm.  In this capacity, Broomes serves as an outside legal adviser for many large businesses, advising them on both transactional and litigation matters.  Among the matters he has litigated, Broomes has taken on a number of complex cases involving the oil and gas industry, including a class action involving royalties,[3] oil and gas lease disputes,[4] and leasehold interests.[5]

In one case, Broomes was named as a defendant in a fraudulent misrepresentation case involving his conduct as litigation counsel.  Specifically, Broomes and the Hinkle Law Firm were sued by Paul Atkins, the defendant in a breach of contract case filed by Broomes, who argued that Broomes’ submissions of exhibits in the breach of contract action constituted “fraud upon the court.”[6]  The actions were ultimately dismissed by the federal trial judge and affirmed by the Tenth Circuit.[7]

Writings

Both as a student and as an attorney, Broomes has written and published several legal articles.  Most of these focus on natural resources, oil and gas rights, and resource rights.  However, two of Broomes’ earlier articles address more controversial subjects, namely the interpretation of statutory language in the Clean Water Act, and the rights of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

Legislative History and the Clean Water Act

In 2001, Broomes released a Comment in the Washburn Law Journal titled “Navigating in Isolated Waters: Section 404 of the Clean Water Act Revisited.”[8]  The piece discusses the then-recent Supreme Court decision in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, which limited section 404 of the Clean Water Act from regulating isolated, intrastate waters.[9]  In the article, Broomes disagrees with Chief Justice Rehnquist’s majority opinion in its finding that the plain text of the section compelled the limitation.  Instead, Broomes notes that “the provision’s clarity arises not from the plain text of the statute, but from its legislative history.”[10]  Broomes goes on to criticize the majority’s reliance on the plain meaning of the statute as “[approaching] the case with a rather cavalier tone.”[11]

Instead, Broomes finds support for the majority’s reading from the Clean Water Act’s legislative history, noting:

“Furthermore, the legislative history of the 1977 Amendments shows overwhelming disapproval of the jurisdictional position taken by the Corps.”[12]

He notes that this legislative history is the “richest source of support” for the majority’s holding, and by failing to rely on it, the majority “undermines the credibility of its opinion and positions this case for overruling as an aberration.”[13]

Rights for Terrorism Suspects

As a law student, Broomes published an article in the Washburn Law Journal titled “Maintaining Honor in Troubled Times: Defining the Rights of Terrorism Suspects Detained in Cuba.”[14]  The article endorses trying terrorism suspects detained at Guantanamo Bay in federal courts.[15]  Specifically, Broomes acknowledges the limited application of Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment protections outside the domestic criminal context, but nonetheless endorses the rights of prisoners to seek writs of habeas corpus in federal courts,[16] noting:

“…the federal judiciary must properly fulfill its responsibility to review these detentions and military trials through the writ of habeas corpus.”[17]

The U.S. Supreme Court endorsed the right of terrorism suspects to seek the writ of habeas corpus in federal court in 2008.[18]

Overall Assessment

As a Republican tapped for the federal bench by a Republican President, it can be surmised that Broomes will be a judicial conservative.  However, Broomes’ writings suggest a willingness to stray from conservative legal ideology.  First, Broomes’ article on Solid Waste Agency suggests a willingness to embrace legislative history, in contrast with the well-outlined positions of Justice Clarence Thomas and the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who disfavored it.  Furthermore, Broomes’ endorsement of habeas rights for Guantanamo detainees takes the position favored by the Supreme Court majority in Boumediene, and not the one embraced by the Court’s conservative bloc.  While these writings are from very early in Broomes’ legal career, and while his views may have evolved from that point, they suggest a moderate conservative outlook on the bench.  As such, Broomes should not expect much opposition in the confirmation process.


[1] Press Release, Kansas Bar Association, Hon. J. Thomas Marten Announces Decision to Take Senior Status (June 8, 2016) (on file at https://www.ksbar.org/news/292977/Hon.-J.-Thomas-Marten-Announces-Decision-to-Take-Senior-Status.htm).

[2] Center for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=john+broomes (last visited Nov. 12, 2017).

[3] Wallace B. Roderick Irrevocable Trust v. XTO Energy, Inc., Case No. 08-cv-01330, 2016 WL 4039641 (D. Kan. July 28, 2016).

[4] Hall Penderosa, LLC. v. Petrohawk Properties, L.P., 90 So. 3d 512 (La. Ct. App. 2012).

[5] Perionnet v. Matador Res. Co., 144 So. 3d 791 (La. 2013).

[6] See Atkins v. Heavy Petroleum Partners, LLC., 635 Fed. Appx. 483, 485-86 (10th Cir. 2015).

[7] See id. at 484.

[8] John W. Broomes, Navigating in Isolated Waters: Section 404 of the Clean Water Act Revisited, 41 Washburn L.J. 209 (Fall 2001).

[9] 531 U.S. 159 (2001).

[10] Broomes, supra n. 9 at 223.

[11] Id.

[12] Id. at 229.

[13] Id. 

[14] John W. Broomes, Maintaining Honor in Troubled Times: Defining the Rights of Terrorism Suspects Detained in Cuba, 42 Washburn L.J. 107 (Fall 2002).

[15] See id. at 108.

[16] Id. at 131-33.

[17] Id. at 140.

[18] Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008).

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