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Conservative Review

Ted Cruz pushes back on judge nominee with bad religious liberty record

On Wednesday during the confirmation hearing for Fifth Circuit nominee Judge Sul Ozerden, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced he has "significant concerns" over Ozerden's constitutionalist credentials.

President Donald Trump nominated Ozerden, a Mississippi judge, in June at the urging of his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, according to Politico. Several conservatives have sounded the alarm on Ozerden, calling for the president to nominate a more conservative judge. Cruz's comments echo the complaints of those conservatives.

“Looking at your record, as you know I’ve got significant concerns because I don’t see any positive substantive evidence of a judicial record that frankly we need strong constitutionalists on the Fifth Circuit,” Cruz said.

Cruz grilled Ozerden on his record, in particular about a religious liberty case challenging Obamacare's contraceptive mandate, in which Ozerden denied a Catholic diocese's motion for oral argument and dismissed the case.

The Daily Wire's Josh Hammer blasted the decision in a long article criticizing Ozerden as a "weak" choice and urging the president to choose someone else.

It is one thing to deny a motion for oral argument from a pro se prisoner filing a facially frivolous habeas corpus petition; it is quite another to deny a motion for oral argument to a Catholic diocese pleading a real, genuine infringement of its right to conscience.

To make matters worse, Ozerden's ruling was also manifestly against both (1) a persuasive district court opinion only sixteen days prior out of the Eastern District of New York (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of N.Y. v. Sebelius), which reached the opposite conclusion and (2) an amicus brief filed on behalf of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi by 79 sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

What Judge Ozerden did in Catholic Diocese of Biloxi represents nothing less than a deliberate indifference — indeed, perhaps an outright hostility — to the interests of religious liberty.

Ozerden defended the decision, saying he was following Fifth Circuit court precedent.

“The notion that I am hostile to religious liberty is simply not accurate,” Ozerden said.

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