A federal judge who hears cases in Lexington will be nominated as a federal appeals judge, President Donald J. Trump announced Monday.
Trump will nominate U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the White House said in a news release.
The court hears appeals from Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan.
Thapar, 47, became the nation’s first federal district judge of South Asian descent when the U.S Senate confirmed him in late 2007. His parents immigrated from India.
Thapar, who received his law degree from the University of California at Berkeley, served as the chief federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Kentucky before taking the district bench. He also served as a prosecutor in Southern Ohio and worked in private practice.
He hears cases in Lexington, Covington, London and Pikeville.
The Senate will have to confirm Thapar to the appellate bench, but with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a strong supporter, observers said that won’t be a problem.
“Throughout his already impressive career of public service, Amul has shown an incredible intellect and an unshakable dedication to the law,” McConnell said in a news release. “He has earned the respect of his colleagues, and I know that he will bring to the Sixth Circuit the same wisdom, fairness, and ability that he has shown on the District Court. President Trump made an outstanding choice and I look forward to the Senate’s confirmation of Judge Thapar.”
Thapar’s office declined comment on the nomination.
It’s not clear when the Senate will schedule a confirmation hearing for Thapar.
Before taking office in January, Trump had put Thapar on his short list for a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, but chose Judge Neil Gorsuch instead.
Thapar is conservative and is seen as close to the Federalist Society, which promotes interpreting laws and the Constitution as written.
His father, Raj Thapar, who owns a heating and air-conditioning supply business in Toledo, told The (Louisville) Courier-Journal in December that his son “nearly wouldn’t speak to me after I voted for Barack Obama.”
However, lawyers across the political spectrum praised Thapar as a highly intellectual, thoughtful and hard-working judge.
Thapar treats litigants fairly and decides cases on the merits, said Mark Wohlander, a Lexington attorney who was an assistant federal prosecutor under Thapar and has appeared before him frequently since he took the bench.
“Judge Thapar is by far one of the most brilliant jurists I’ve appeared before or worked with,” said Wohlander, a political conservative. “He’s the fairest man I’ve ever appeared before.”
Wohlander said the words inscribed on the U.S. Supreme Court building, “Equal Justice Under Law,” define Thapar.
Louisville attorney Kent Wicker, who said he is a political liberal, said Thapar’s political ideology doesn’t show up in how he handles cases and reaches decisions.
“His judicial philosophy is to get the right answer and do the right thing,” Wicker said. “He tries to follow the law.”
Prestonburg attorney Ned Pillersdorf said he differs philosophically with Thapar on some fronts — noting that Thapar is very conservative in criminal cases — but that he has “a world of respect for his intellect and his integrity” and that Thapar will make a great appellate judge.