Ryan Bounds, a federal prosecutor, is President Trump’s first nominee for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. An Oregon native and an accomplished lawyer, with experience in private practice and the public sector, Bounds has not received the support of the state’s senators, who contend that his nomination was made in contravention of the state’s bipartisan selection process.
Ryan Wesley Bounds was born on June 28, 1973 and is a Hermiston, Oregon native. He graduated from Stanford University in 1995 with a B.A. in psychology and political science. At Stanford, he was an editor of the conservative student-run newspaper, The Stanford Review, and of The Thinker, a Stanford newspaper that Bounds and a liberal student founded with the stated goal of providing a neutral forum to express opposing opinions about the topics du jour, an ethos captured in its masthead: “For every issue, there is another side; think about it.” In 1999,
Bounds graduated from Yale Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law and Policy Review, an editor of the Yale Law Journal, and vice-president of the Yale Federalist Society. He was also editor-in-chief of a 1998 Federalist Society symposium issue of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.
From 1999-2000, Bounds clerked for Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, whose vacancy he would fill if confirmed. From 2000-04, he practiced commercial law at Stoel Rives LLP in Portland, Oregon. From 2004-07, he served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief of Staff in the Office of Legal Policy at the DOJ. From 2007-08 and for part of 2009 he was the Special Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. From 2008-09 he was the Special Assistant to the President for Justice and Immigration Policy for the Domestic Policy Council. From 2010 until the present, he has prosecuted federal crimes as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.10
History of the Seat
Bounds has been nominated to an Oregon seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. This seat opened on December 31, 2016 with O’Scannlain’s move to senior status. Bounds was recommended for the judge vacancy by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R – Or.), whose chief of staff is Bounds’ sister.11 Oregon’s two democratic senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley offered Oregon District Judge Marco A. Hernandez to the White House. However, the White House nominated Bounds on September 7, 2017.
In response, both Wyden and Merkley declined to return blue slips on Bounds, noting, in a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn that Bounds had not been approved by the state’s bipartisan judicial selection committee as of his nomination date, and that they had not been adequately consulted.12 McGahn disputed the lack of consultation and instread criticized the senators for not engaging with or vetting Bounds for several months after his name was first proposed.13 Bounds’ American Bar Association rating is ‘Unanimously Qualified.’14
Bounds has a well-rounded legal career: trial and appellate work, civil and criminal work, and government and private practice at a top firm in Portland.15 Bounds’ career as an Assistant U.S. Attorney has centered on prosecuting immigration crimes (2010-2011) and fraud and environmental crimes (2011-present).16
Most of the major actions Bounds has worked on are in immigration and criminal law. The following cases are examples of his work: U.S. v. Vasquez, 843 F. Supp. 2d 1147 (D. Or. 2012) (dismissing assault with a dangerous weapon indictment because prison floor that defendant inmate slammed his victim into was not a dangerous weapon); U.S. v. Trujillo-Alvarez, 900 F. Supp. 2d 1167, 1170 (D. Or. 2012)(holding illegal entry defendant in custodypending prosecution violated his statutory right to pretrial release); U.S. v. Vidal-Mendoza, 705 F.3d 1012 (9th Cir. 2013) (illegal entry defendant had been adequately informed that he was ineligible for voluntary departure due to previous rape conviction, and could not successfully collaterally attack his earlier removal order on grounds that he had not been so advised);Ghahremani v. Gonzales, 498 F.3d 993, 1000 (9th Cir. 2007) (Board of Immigration Appeals abused its discretion by denying defendant’s motion to reopen his case as untimely because equitable tolling applied); Price v. U.S., 985 A.2d 434, 435 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (affirming theft conviction).
As Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Bounds advocated for the maintenance of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) when the issue was before the House of Representatives in 2007. The question at bar was whether the PLRA’s terms, including the requirement that prisoners exhaust administrative remedies, that attorney’s fees are capped at 150% of any monetary recovery (i.e., if the recovery is $1, the PLRA caps attorney’s fees at $1.50), and that serial filers will be liable for court costs, have led to meritorious claims of prison abuses going unremedied.17 Bounds argued that the PLRA’s stated objective of decreasing frivolous prisoner lawsuits”has preserved the ability of legitimately harmed inmates to gain access to the courts and prevented the negative effects of frivolous cases in ever greater numbers.”18
While an undergrad at Stanford, Bounds co-founded The Thinker, a student publication aimed at providing a neutral forum where people of different political views can express their opinions freely and thoughtfully.20 Explaining what led him to co-found the paper, he expressed irritation “that there were some issues that I couldn’t talk about honestly on this campus.” Bounds called Stanford’s conservative publication, The Review, “a service” in providing a forum where “people don’t toe the liberal line,” as in the liberal publication Stanford Daily, but saw the need for a single platform where “people with opposing viewpoints can meet on common ground.”21
Bounds’ relatively long, diverse career in litigation makes him an experienced candidate for the bench. While Bounds’ political orientation is decidedly conservative, his public positions have not been dogmatic or particularly ideological. If Bounds is able to overcome the blue slip hurdle and gain the support of his home state senators, he will likely be confirmed.
2https://ballotpedia.org/Ryan_Bounds; https://web.stanford.edu/dept/news/pr/95/950605Arc5195.html; https://stanfordreview.org/
9https://ballotpedia.org/Ryan_Bounds; https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-announces-seventh-wave-judicial-candidates/; https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:rRetCM6X1K8J:https://www.georgewbushlibrary.smu.edu/Research/~/~/media/90FE2F045D9F4029A468C068DB0B69ED.ashx+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us.