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COMMENTARY: Lawrence VanDyke a stellar choice for 9th Circuit

Last week, the White House nominated Lawrence VanDyke to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This important court presides over nine Western states, including Nevada. Mr. VanDyke is exactly what we need in a judge: a principled, brilliant thinker who understands the West deeply.

Mr. VanDyke served as Nevada’s solicitor general for four years. We saw him in action, and Nevada benefited from his legal advice. We can tell you why he would be an excellent judge.

First, his impeccable credentials. A solicitor general is a state’s top constitutional and appellate lawyer. Mr. VanDyke was not only Nevada’s solicitor general, but he also held that important office in Montana. Before that, he was assistant solicitor general of Texas. He now serves in the U.S. Department of Justice.

He graduated from Harvard Law, then clerked on the prestigious federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. He spent six years in private practice at Gibson Dunn, a highly respected international law firm, before returning to public service.

These impressive credentials provide a solid foundation for Mr. VanDyke’s service as a federal judge. He has handled matters related to criminal procedure, education, prisons, business regulation, federalism, employment law, technology and more. A judge must grasp new areas of law. Mr. VanDyke’s career has been preparation for that task.

He has also proved that he can do so effectively. Mr. VanDyke has appeared in the trial courts of multiple states and filed many successful briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court. He has litigated for and against government. He has personally argued more than 20 appeals in the 9th Circuit and in the Nevada Supreme Court. He has conducted depositions and argued motions. He has spent time in the trenches.

Mr. VanDyke’s dexterity in zeroing in on critical points made him a powerful and persuasive lawyer before judges. It will serve him equally well as a judge before lawyers. In fact, one of the prime characteristics of an appellate judge is crafting clear-eyed, well-reasoned options that tackle challenging legal issues.

Mr. VanDyke’s career qualifies him for service on the 9th Circuit because he has become a specialist in the legal issues that predominate in the West. In Nevada, for instance, he worked on cases involving water law and mining law, challenging bureaucratic overreach and defending the interests of ranchers, farmers, homeowners and Western consumers across the board. Now, in the Department of Justice, he enforces the nation’s environmental laws. From his roots in southern Montana to his career in Northern Nevada, he knows and loves the West.

You may hear critics conflate Mr. VanDyke’s positions as a lawyer with his personal views. Don’t buy into this political partisanship. The best thing for our country, our state and the rule of law is to have smart, hardworking and fair judges on the federal bench. That is Lawrence VanDyke.

Judicial appointments are often controversial because judges have failed to respect their limited role — which is to decide cases but not make policy. Fundamentally, that, too, is why we support Mr. VanDyke. He understands the separation of powers, constitutional limitation and applying the law passed by representatives of the people. He doesn’t seek to make law. Lawrence VanDyke is exactly the kind of judge we need on the 9th Circuit.

— Mark A. Hutchison served as Nevada’s lieutenant governor from 2015-2019. Adam P. Laxalt served as Nevada’s attorney general from 2015-2019.

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