U.S. Senate confirms Georgia judge to powerful federal court post


The U.S. Senate on Tuesday easily confirmed Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Elizabeth Branch to a lifetime position on a powerful Atlanta-based federal appeals court.

Senators voted 73-23 to seat Branch on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the 12-judge panel one step below the Supreme Court that has jurisdiction over Georgia, Alabama and Florida. All dissenting votes came from Democrats.

The Trump administration tapped the Fulton County native in September to replace Judge Frank Hull, a Clinton appointee who announced she was taking senior status. The 11th District in recent years has ruled on hot-button issues such as voting rights and the death penalty.

Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Branch to the state Appeals Court in 2012. She attracted attention in 2016 for an opinion that found “upskirting,” the secret videotaping of a person’s genitals in a public place, can’t be prosecuted as a crime because Georgia’s decades-old laws didn’t account for criminal acts committed with modern technology.

Branch breezed through her confirmation hearing in December, during which she told senators she would “do equal justice to the rich and the poor” and faithfully apply the law.

She told senators she considers herself an “originalist” and a “textualist,” legal philosophies often associated with conservative jurists. That is, she thinks the words in the Constitution should be interpreted as they were intended to mean when they were written. She also said she will look to the plain text of the Constitution to help guide her when rendering a decision.

Branch had previously spent years as a commercial litigator in Atlanta and completed a four-year stint with the George W. Bush administration.

The Senate’s vote came roughly 24 hours after the chamber kicked off debate on Branch’s nomination. That, however, was largely a formality: Only two senators took to the floor to discuss Branch’s qualifications.

Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson was one them. The Republican, who with U.S. Sen. David Perdue vetted Georgia judicial candidates for the Trump administration, said Branch once worked for the law firm that had represented the real estate company once owned by him and his father.

“She’s a great individual in our state and served a great service to our state and will be a great judge for the United States of America,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Branch “another fine candidate to serve on the federal bench.”

The Senate has plans in the days ahead to debate and vote on the nomination of one of Branch’s colleagues on the Georgia Court of Appeals, Tripp Self, to fill an opening on the U.S. District Court in Macon.

Staff writer Bill Rankin contributed to this article.



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