U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar was confirmed Thursday to a seat on the federal appeals bench.
Thapar was confirmed as a judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky in late 2007, and was the federal prosecutor for the region before that. The district covers the eastern half of Kentucky, including Lexington, Frankfort and Northern Kentucky, where Thapar lives.
The U.S. Senate approved Thapar’s nomination to the U.S. 6th Circuit of Appeals in Cincinnati on a party-line vote of 52 Republicans to 44 Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thapar, 48, will make an outstanding addition to the federal appeals court that hears cases from Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan.
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“He has a reputation as a qualified judge with an impressive legal mind,” McConnell said. “He will fairly apply the law to all who enter his courtroom because, in Judge Thapar’s own words, ‘the most important attribute of a judge is to be open-minded and not to prejudge a case without reading the briefs, researching the law, and hearing from the parties.’”
Thapar, whose parents immigrated from India, was the first person of South Asian descent to become a federal district judge, and becomes only the second on a federal appeals court.
Thapar’s nomination was the second by President Donald Trump, after choosing Judge Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump had put Thapar on a short list to consider naming him to the nation’s highest court.
Thapar is a conservative, but attorneys across the political spectrum praised his intellect, integrity and fairness when Trump nominated him to the appeals bench.
Louisville attorney Kent Wicker, a liberal, said at the time that 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.”
U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell, chief judge in the Eastern District, said she and other judges have prepared for the need to reassign Thapar’s pending cases among themselves.
With Thapar gone, the Eastern District will be short 1.5 judges. Former Judge Jennifer Coffman was not replaced.
But Caldwell said the four remaining district judges, along with three senior judges and five magistrate judges, will be able to deal with the increased workload.
“I feel like we’re well-positioned to to handle this,” Caldwell said. “We’ve already been in a transitional period.”
Trump would have to nominate, and the Senate confirm, another judge for the district.