Chad Readler – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

DOJ Attorney Chad Readler would have been controversial simply by the nature of his work for the Trump campaign, and in defending some of the White House’s most controversial initiatives.  However, the strong opposition by home-state Sen. Sherrod Brown doesn’t ease his path any further.

Background

Chad Andrew Readler was born in Pontiac Michigan in 1972.  Readler received his B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1994 and his J.D. cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School in 1997.[1]  He then clerked for Judge Alan Norris on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.[2]

After his clerkship, Readler joined the Columbus office of Jones Day as an Associate.[3]  In 2007, he became a Partner at the firm.[4]

In 2017, after the election of Donald Trump, Readler joined the Department of Justice as Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.[5]  He maintained that position until the confirmation of Jody Hunt in September 2018, and now serves as Principal Deputy.

History of the Seat

Readler has been nominated for an Ohio seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  Judge Deborah Cook has indicated that she will vacate the seat upon the confirmation of a successor.

Readler was directly contacted by the White House to gauge his interest in an appointment to the Sixth Circuit.[6]  After interviews with the White House, Readler interviewed with Brown and Republican Senator Rob Portman in late 2017.[7]  He was officially nominated on June 18, 2018.  Brown has indicated his strong opposition to Readler’s nomination and has indicated that he will not return a blue slip.[8]

Political Activity

Readler had served as Outside Counsel for the Trump campaign in 2016.[9]

He was also the Ohio Co-Chair of Lawyers for Romney in 2012 and assisted with several Republican judicial election campaigns.[10]  Readler has also donated frequently to Republican candidates, giving over $12000 over the last twelve years.[11]

Private Practice

Until he joined the Department of Justice last year, Readler was a Partner in the Columbus office of Jones Day, frequently described as Trump’s favorite law firm, which has produced many Trump judicial nominees.  During his time at the firm, Readler represented a habeas petitioner seeking review of his “actual innocence” based habeas claim despite a time-bar, arguing on the petitioner’s behalf at the Supreme Court, and obtaining a limited 5-4 victory for his client.[12]

Charter School

One of Readler’s most significant cases at Jones Day involved the constitutionality of Ohio’s public funding for charter schools.[13]  The case involved a challenge to public funding of Ohio charter schools, which critics argued could not be considered “public” as they were administered by private entities and managed by for-profit corporations.[14]  Readler defended the designation of charter schools as public because the schools did not discriminate in admissions and were funded with public money.[15]  The Ohio Supreme Court ultimately narrowly sided with Readler, upholding the constitutionality of charter schools by a 4-3 vote.[16]

Later, Readler continued to defend charter schools against efforts by the Ohio government to shut down public schools that were underperforming.[17]  He also served as co-chair of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission, which provided recommendations for constitutional changes, and recommended eliminating a requirement that the state fund a “thorough and efficient” system of schools.[18]

Trump Campaigns

During the 2016 campaign, Readler was one of the attorneys at Jones Day representing the Trump campaign.  Notably, Readler defended comments made by Trump during the campaign suggesting that the election was “rigged” as protected political speech in a suit over voter intimidation by the Trump campaign.[19]

Department of Justice

Since 2017, Readler has served as Acting Assistant Attorney General and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General under the Trump Administration.  In these roles, Readler has been to court to defend some of the Administration’s most controversial positions.

Travel Ban

Perhaps the most controversial case that Readler handled is the legal defense of the Trump travel bans, which were ultimately upheld narrowly by the Supreme Court in their third iteration.[20]  Early in the Administration, Readler argued (unsuccessfully) that the Ninth Circuit should reinstate the Trump Administration’s ban on travel with seven Muslim-majority countries (enjoined by Judge James Robart).[21]  He also successfully defended the ban before Judge Anthony Trenga in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.[22]

CFPB

In 2018, after President Trump replaced outgoing Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head Richard Cordray with Mick Mulvaney, Readler helped defend the constitutionality of the appointment against a challenge from Cordray’s deputy Leandra English.[23]  Readler successfully argued that the President retained the authority to name Mulvaney and persuaded Judge Timothy Kelly to deny a preliminary injunction.[24]

Sanctuary Cities

Readler was also called to defend the legality of a Trump Administration initiative to deny federal funds to  “sanctuary cities” (cities that limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement).  In a hearing before Judge William Orrick, Readler argued that the denied grants were relatively minor and disputed arguments by the City of San Francisco that it could lose up to $1.7 Billion in federal funding.[25]  Orrick ultimately disagreed, enjoining the initiative.[26]

Writings

Throughout his legal career, Readler has opined on the law.  Two of his writings are highlighted below.

Non-Discrimination Ordinances

As a young lawyer, Readler wrote an article discussing the impact of local and municipal anti-discrimination protections, specifically arguing that such protections are ineffective.[27]  Specifically, Readler notes that local non-discrimination ordinances are not publicized as well to employers, rarely enforced, and, thus, are less effective.[28]  As an example, Readler suggests that stringent ordinances protecting same-sex couples in Columbus would force companies with offices in Columbus and other cities (such as Cincinnati) to adopt company wide anti-discrimination policies, and that such adoption would override “the will of the people of Cincinnati.”[29]

As such, Readler recommends federal control of anti-discrimination laws, and suggests that having private companies “free to choose their own employment policies” would be even better as that would avoid the resources needed to debate such issues on the governmental level.[30]

Charter Schools

In 2014, Readler co-authored a paper with fellow Jones Day attorney Ken Grose, in which he described and discussed recent legal victories on behalf of charter schools, suggesting that the rulings have reaffirmed the legitimacy of charter schools and comparing the wins to the victory of David over Goliath.[31]  In the paper, Readler also accuses charter school opponents of “ignoring the law” and of treating charter schools as “second class citizens.”[32]

Overall Assessment

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Readler is a controversial nominee.  His record is likely to be strongly objectionable to Democrats, given his close affiliation with Trump and the Administration’s initiatives.  Add to that the fact that Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown is opposed, and it’s likely that every single Democratic vote at the end of the day will come down against Readler.  As such, his confirmation will depend on how many Republicans join them.

As of right now, there is little reason to think that any will.  Readler’s intellectual capacity and his intelligence are unquestionable, and Republicans have generally backed even controversial Trump nominations.  Furthermore, Readler’s backers can also argue that he should not be penalized for defending the positions taken by his client.

As such, Readler remains a favorite to be confirmed.  If and when he is, he will add a strongly conservative voice to the Sixth Circuit, continuing the Trump Administration’s efforts to reshape the federal bench.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Chad A. Readler: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] See Readler, supra n. 1 at 81.

[7] Press Release, White House, President Donald J. Trump Announces Eleventh Wave of Judicial Candidates (Feb. 15, 2017) (on file at www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office).

[8] Press Release, Office of Sen. Sherrod Brown, Brown Will Not Support Judge Nominees Who Worked to Strip Ohioans of Their Rights (June 8, 2018) (on file at https://www.brown.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/brown-will-not-support-judge-nominees-who-worked-to-strip-ohioans-of-their-rights).

[9] See Readler, supra n. 1 at 60-61.

[10] See id.

[12] See McQuiggin v. Perkins, 133 S. Ct. 1924 (2013).

[13] State ex rel. Ohio Congress of Parents & Teachers v. State Bd. of Educ., 857 N.E.2d 1148 (Ohio 2006).

[14] Ohio Supreme Court to Rule on Charter Law; Fate of Nearly 300 Charter Schools May Hinge on Decision, Education Week, Dec. 7, 2005.

[15] See id.

[16] State ex rel. Ohio Congress of Parents & Teachers v. State Bd. of Educ., 857 N.E.2d 1148 (Ohio 2006).

[17] Sam Dillon, Ohio Goes After Charter Schools That Are Failing, N.Y. Times, Nov. 8, 2007.

[18] Jeremy P. Kelley, School Funding Plan Brings Sharp Debate; Some Education Boards in Ohio Oppose Proposal; Vote Possible., Dayton Daily News, July 10, 2014.

[19] Mark Gillespie, Judge Orders Trump Backers to Stop Voter Harassment, Charleston Gazette-Mail, Nov. 5, 2016.

[20] District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).

[21] David J. Lynch, Federal Appeals Court Refuses to Reinstate Seven-Nation Travel Ban; U.S. Executive Order, Financial Times, Feb. 6, 2017.

[22] Rachel Weiner, Va. Judge: Trump’s New Travel Ban Likely to Pass Muster, Wash. Post, Mar. 26, 2017.

[23] See English v. Trump, 279 F. Supp. 3d 307 (D.D.C. 2018).

[24] See id.

[25] See Maura Dolan, Trump Lawyer Says Sanctuary City Rule Won’t Pummel Cities, Augusta Chronicle, Apr. 15, 2017.

[26] See Bloomberg News, Crackdown Confronts Sanctuary Cities in Court, Telegram & Gazette, Apr. 15, 2017.

[27] Chad A. Readler, Local Government Anti-Discrimination Laws: Do They Make a Difference?, 31 U. Mich. J. L. Reform 777 (Spring 1998).

[28] Id. at 805-08.

[29] Id. at 808.

[30] Id. at 811-812.

[31] Chad A. Readler and Kenneth M. Grose, Adjudging Education Policy: How the Courts Shaped Ohio’s Charter School Movement, 45 U. Tol. L. Rev. 601, 603 (Spring 2014).

[32] See id. at 604, 617.

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