A first look at Third Circuit nominee Stephanos Bibas

Although the White House has so far announced only its intent to nominate Stephanos Bibas to the Third Circuit, US Senator Pat Toomey today released a statement that begins, “I am pleased that President Trump has nominated Stephanos Bibas to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.” Toomey’s statement continues:

“Professor Bibas clearly has the intellect and the legal experience to be an excellent judge. In addition to serving as a Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania and as the Director of the University’s Supreme Court clinic, Professor Bibas clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and argued six cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. Most importantly, Professor Bibas understands that the proper role of a judge is to apply the law as written and to treat everyone who comes before him equally, not to impose his policy preferences from the bench or choose winners or losers.

“I believe that Professor Bibas will make an outstanding addition to the Third Circuit, and I hope that the Senate Judiciary Committee will move Professor Bibas’ nomination forward promptly so he can soon be confirmed by the full Senate.”

Pennsylvania’s other US Senator, Bob Casey, has not released a statement yet.

Penn Law School’s announcement features some illuminating quotes:

“I am deeply honored to have been nominated,” Bibas said. “I’ve had the great good fortune to learn from outstanding jurists, including Judge Higginbotham and Justice Kennedy, and have learned a tremendous amount from my colleagues and students at Penn Law. Penn has supported me in all that I’ve done: teaching generations of students, writing scholarship, litigating before the Supreme Court, and preventing wrongful convictions through the work of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice.”

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“Those who will work with Stephanos Bibas in the Third Circuit will soon discover that he is an outstanding colleague,” said Tess Wilkinson-Ryan L’05, Professor of Law and Psychology. “I have enormous respect for his commitment to respectful, collegial discourse on even the most contentious topics. He is also a dedicated and conscientious mentor whose future clerks will be lucky to learn from him.”

“Professor Bibas has had wide experience as a prosecutor, teacher, scholar, and advocate in cases in the United States Supreme Court,” said David Rudovsky, Senior Fellow at Penn Law and a leading civil rights and criminal defense attorney. “In the area of criminal justice, Professor Bibas has shown a capacity to learn from experience, research, and empirical data, and he has developed a broadly based understanding of the dynamics — and the flaws — of the criminal justice system.”

Early conservative reaction to Bibas’s nomination has been glowing. In addition to Carrie Severino and Orin Kerr who I linked to yesterday, enthusiastic support has come from Jonathan Adler on Volokh Conspiracy (“impessive”), Guy Benson on Townhall, Ilya Shapiro at Cato (“outstanding”), David Lat on Above the Law (“a superstar of legal academia”), and Ed Morrissey at Hot Air (“Expect these nominees to get a very warm reception from conservatives ….”). Shapiro notes that Bibas is the faculty adviser for Penn’s Federalist Society chapter.

From the liberal side, Nan Aron of Alliance for Justice said yesterday that Bibas “has a history of troubling statements on criminal justice issues” and, along with others in this wave of judicial nominees, warrants “a high level of scrutiny.”

Bibas’s paper trail is simply gargantuan. A few starting points:

Bibas is a bold and fascinating choice. I can’t wait to see how this plays out.