Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Sid Salter: Cruz Playing Purity Politics in Opposing Ozerden Nomination

While most people aspire to the assurance that judges are first and foremost fair and unbiased in their rulings, President Donald Trump’s nomination of Southern District U.S. Federal Judge Halil Suleyman “Sul” Ozerden of Gulfport to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has evoked a far different response from some segments of the far right led by Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Cruz, who fought Trump hammer and tong for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, lost a truly bitter primary battle against him that included the worst sorts of personal attacks. During the campaign, Trump went after Cruz, Cruz’s wife, Heidi, and his father, Rafael – citing a National Enquirer story that linked the elder Cruz to JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

Not to be outdone, Cruz answered with some attacks of his own, calling Trump a “narcissist” and “serial philanderer” and someone for whom “morality doesn’t exist.”

Let’s step back from the Trump v. Cruz battle and focus on Judge Sul Ozerden. Born in Hattiesburg to a family of Turkish immigrants in 1966. He graduated from Georgetown University and spent six years as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot flying missions in Somalia and Iraq. After his military service, he graduated from Stanford Law School in 1998.

Eight years later, while a partner in a Gulf Coast private firm, Ozerden was nominated for the U.S. District Court seat he now holds by President George W. Bush and then unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He’s now spent 12 years on the federal bench.

Let’s also focus on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Comprised of the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, the court is among the nation’s most conservative. All the U.S. senators in all three states are Republican. The Mississippi vacancy on the bench created by longtime 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Grady Jolly’s 2017 decision to take senior status has languished almost two years.

The process of replacing Jolly was slow rolled by the Trump Administration and Ozerden wasn’t formally nominated to the post by Trump until April 2018. The Senate held hearings earlier this year on the Ozerden nomination. Opposition to Ozerden from Cruz and GOP U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri have further stalled the confirmation process.

For the record, both of Mississippi’s Republican U.S. Senators strongly support the Ozerden nomination. Wicker told his Senate colleagues: “The son of an immigrant, Judge Ozerden was an Eagle Scout, a distinguished combat veteran, a leader in his church and community, and has been a federal district court judge for the last 12 years. Judge Ozerden has my strong support and that of Senator Hyde-Smith.”

Currently on the 5th Circuit, Texas has 9 judges, Louisiana has 5 judges, and Mississippi has two judges and one vacancy.

Trump’s five prior judicial nominations to the 5th Circuit – three from Texas, two from Louisiana – had the strong political blessings of the White House Counsels’ Office and of the Federalist Society. Ozerden’s nomination – based on similar attacks on Ozerden’s record from the Texas-based First Liberty Institute – is being bright line targeted as a case of the Gulf Coast jurist not being “conservative enough.”

But Cruz and Hawley’s opposition seems more rooted in feathering their own political nests with groups who want political “purity” judicial nominees whose decision will be founded more in political postures than in the law.

Cruz railed against “judicial activism” on the campaign trail in Iowa in 2015. But in the case of Ozerden, it seems Cruz doesn’t see Ozerden’s prospects for conservative judicial activism being quite strong enough.

Ozerden’s judicial record reflects that Trump may have been onto something when he hung the moniker “Lyin’ Ted” around the senator’s neck.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


Messick said...

What does Sid define as "far right"?

Has he used the term "far left" or "socialist" or "Marxist" to define the other side yet?

Anonymous said...

Judge Ozerden is one of the most conservative district court judges in the United States. And Cruz's stated beefs with him have to do with his applying Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit law in a fringe case. But that is exactly what anyone would expect from a trial court judge: to apply the law of higher courts to the dispute at hand. What I really think is driving this - and why it has taken so long for the nomination - is that Cruz wants Texas to poach that Fifth Circuit seat. I suspect that no nominee from Mississippi is going to pass his purity test, and that is the point. But saying that Judge Ozerden is insufficiently conservative is laughable on its face. The only sad thing about him being elevated to the Fifth Circuit is that the Southern District of Mississippi would lose a damn good trial judge.

Anonymous said...

A liar calling a liar a liar.

Anonymous said...

Once again, Sid proves to be a genius. Who would have thought that Ted Cruz would be political.

Anonymous said...

There has been an organized effort for decades to politicize the judicial branches of government.

One of the first strategies was the use of " buzz words" in the campaigns of elected judges so that the Christian right and the Tea Party could recognize the candidate " as one of theirs".

I was " in the room" 30 years ago when GOP campaign strategists were volunteering to help judges get elected and advised " family values" be in all the campaign ads and remarks . Quickly, words were added that were pulled from the " ads" and talking points of the GOP..."rights" is a good example.

Anonymous said...

Cruz continues to show that he and his fellow "tea party Republicans" show again that they are causing as much drain on American society and politics as the "socialist democrats." Judge Ozerden is an honorable man and a good judge (I can personally attest to that). Cruz wants another 5th C judge to be from Texas. Meanwhile, MS continues to lose influence, but we continue to vote for the very people who are cutting our legs from under us.

Cruz and his comrades have strayed far, far away from old-guard conservatives. Instead, they have become the epitome of "us versus them" politics. Their ire used to be aimed solely at Dems. Now, someone is "not conservative enough." It is only going to get worse as long as we keep voting these people into office

Anonymous said...

Based on the posters above the Democrats were pure hearted and apolitical when they got ACLU attorney Ruth Ginsberg on the Supreme Court.

Anonymous said...

Gee, I missed the articles when Sid critiqued the Obama judicial appointments for being too liberal.

Anonymous said...

I have no clue about the judge, but the fact that Sid rushed to his defense makes me pressure Cruz is right.

Anonymous said...

"old-guard conservatives" = RINOs

Anonymous said...

Always sleep with one eye open when there's guy named Sid Salter staying at the same hotel.

Anonymous said...

1:44 you're a pure idiot. A reasonable conservative is what is needed. "Old guard" as you call 'em are true Republicans. Your "in name only" is meaningless.
Cruz is out for Cruz as always.

Anonymous said...

Would McDaniel pass Cruz's "purity" test?

Not sure anyone can pass any test with their head up Ted Cruz's ass waist deep.

Anyway I digress...

Melanie will be available for all press questions on the Senator's pending nomination to the 5th Circuit.

Anonymous said...

Apparently a religious institution sued the Feds because Obomacare was going to make them provide birth control. This judge dismissed the case. I don't know his reasoning, but on the face of it, that's not a conservative ruling. It doesn't even sound constitutional, but I haven't heard his excuse for ruling that way.
I have always voted for Wicker. I saw the other day that he voted against Trump's emergency border declaration. Sorry Roger, it is an emergency. Congress has ignored this problem for decades. It's exactly why congress gave President the power to act in emergencies, because sometimes congress won't act even though something must be done. So I'm officially a free agent the next time he runs for reelection. I hope a great person runs against him. If he can't see that we must get control of the border he needs to be replaced.

Anonymous said...

@8:02, the diocese filed suit prior to enforcement/enactment . Ozerden reasonably determined it wasn’t ripe for review. That is all. Other federal judges made the same ruling.

Anonymous said...

Sid's kid is protecting daddy today.

I used to like Sid's columns back when he ran the small newspaper. Sid's writings have declined to the point of being awful.

Anonymous said...

12:45pm Are you clueless or just too young to remember that when Ginsberg was appointed, there was a list of recommendations from the American Bar Association from the suggestions of both political parties.
It used to be that we wanted our judges to be apolitical and follow the law!

I would remind you that Merrick was hardly "liberal" and for the first time in history, the Senate didn't even give Merrick consideration.

We used to be honorable in this Nation and put party aside when it came to competence and more importantly, to country.

You want one party rule? Well, good news, despite all that's going on in the news, you are very likely to get your wish. The deck has been nicely stacked thanks to a successful long term "take no prisoners" strategy. Move 1 was to use the churches in the way they were used in the Civil Rights era, but this time, the game was only about power so it was to make sure you felt afraid and superior. You are just a pawn as are those on the extreme left. The battles of power in every society were fought before the first shots are fired.

Anonymous said...

Sid is way off base here and hasn't done his homework. The concern about this judge extends far beyond one opinion, to how he decides cases in general. There is a belief, not without some justification, that he is result oriented. His reversal rate at the 5th circuit is also, as I recall, above average. He is not a bad guy, or even a bad judge in most cases. But if you're looking to elevate someone to the court of appeals who will leave legislating to the legislature, there are better options.

Anonymous said...

9:06 opines as if the we are moving to a "one-party rule." Just like we see the House of Representatives are now a pawn of the right?!

It is the left that has shown the fights to the death over Supreme Court appointments. Please name a Democratic SC appointment that was "Borked."

Anonymous said...

9:06 'for the first time in history the Senate didn't even give Merritt consideration." Maybe that's technically true, I'm not sure, but the implication is 100% not true. The fact is that for more than 100 years the Senate has not approved a nomination by the other party's President when that President was a lame duck and in his last year of service. So, would it have been better to review the nomination and vote it down? That would have been a waste of time for everyone. The Dims continue to pretend that something wrong was done there, when it was no more wrong that what both parties have done from more than 100 years.

Anonymous said...

9:06 Re: Ginsburg Okay, the suggestions were taken from both sides and ACLU volunteer Ginsburg ended up on the Supreme Court. If Trump, Bush et al, "considered" someone from the 9th Circuit Court and ended up nominating someone whose views were far from "the constitution as living breathing document that can adapt to our changing world" would that make you happy?

Anonymous said...

10:31, your "fact" is not actually a fact. The informal practice dates back to 1968, was invented by Strom Thurmond, and was never applied to cover an entire year. In fact, Mitch McConell's application of the "Thurmond Rule" to cover almost an entire year was a first-time application of the unwritten "rule."

"The Thurmond rule 'has its origins in June 1968, when Senator Strom Thurmond, Republican of South Carolina, blocked President Lyndon B. Johnson's appointment of Justice Abe Fortas as chief justice.'"

Anonymous said...

Cruz is the Swamp. Tea Party in MS is a big government group, I am missing something on this one, is the Judge a Sunni? Hard to hold a hard job and be a good Sunni doing all those prayers, fasting etc.

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