L. Steven Grasz

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L. Steven Grasz
L. Steven Grasz.jpg
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Assumed office
January 3, 2018
Appointed byDonald Trump
Preceded byWilliam J. Riley
Chief Deputy Attorney General of Nebraska
In office
January 1991 – May 2002
GovernorBen Nelson
Mike Johanns
Attorney GeneralDon Stenberg
Personal details
Born
Leonard Steven Grasz

(1961-11-01) November 1, 1961 (age 59)
Chappell, Nebraska, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationUniversity of Nebraska–Lincoln (B.S.)
University of Nebraska College of Law (J.D.)

Leonard Steven Grasz (born November 1, 1961)[1] is an American lawyer and a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

A graduate of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the University of Nebraska College of Law, Grasz spent eleven years as the state of Nebraska's Chief Deputy Attorney General. He was a senior partner at the law firm of Husch Blackwell prior to his appointment to the federal judiciary.

At the time of his 2017 nomination for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary unanimously voted to give Grasz a "not qualified" rating for the position. Grasz was the first circuit court nominee to receive a unanimous "not qualified" rating from the ABA since 2006. Republican Senators accused the ABA of political bias and Grasz testified that the ABA's review process was unprofessional.

Early life and education[edit]

Grasz was born in Chappell, Nebraska, to farmers. As a child, he showed steers and lambs, belonged to 4-H, and was a state officer for Future Farmers of America. He played basketball and was on the track team in high school, graduating in a class of 33 students.[2]

Grasz received his Bachelor of Science, cum laude, in agriculture from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1984. He received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 1989, where he was inducted into the Order of the Coif, served as the executive editor of the Nebraska Law Review, and received the Roscoe Pound Award for his selection as top oral advocate in his class.[3]

Legal career[edit]

Grasz began his career as an intern and legislative assistant to Virginia D. Smith, a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives who represented Nebraska's 3rd congressional district from 1975 to 1991 and was the first woman from Nebraska to hold a seat in the U.S. House.[2] Grasz went on to spend two years as an associate at Kutak Rock.[3]

Grasz then spent eleven years as the state of Nebraska's Chief Deputy Attorney General, where he oversaw the Nebraska Attorney General's Office's civil and appellate practice in state and federal courts, the state's official Attorney General's opinions, and the representation of state constitutional officers and legislators.[3] While serving as Nebraska's Chief Deputy Attorney General, Grasz authored nine briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court and served as counsel of record before the Supreme Court in Stenberg v. Carhart, in which he defended a state statute prohibiting partial-birth abortion.[4]

In 2002, Grasz joined the Omaha office of Husch Blackwell. He was named senior partner in 2013. While in private practice, Grasz challenged a state constitutional provision restricting ownership of agricultural land under the Commerce Clause.[4] He worked as a lobbyist in addition to maintaining a legal practice.[5] From 2007 to 2013, he served as General Counsel to the Nebraska Republican Party. From 2013 to 2017, he worked as Legal Counsel, Treasurer, and Secretary to Pete Ricketts's gubernatorial campaigns.[1]

Grasz has also written numerous op-eds, including one criticizing John Roberts as "the one who ushered in the ultimate transfer of limitless power to the federal government" for his decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, which he described as "unsupportable in terms of its legal reasoning and adherence to longstanding rules of constitutional interpretation or construction".[1][6]

In 2017, Grasz was part of the state chapter of the Federalist Society, joining the Nebraska Lawyers Chapter Steering Committee.[1][7] He was on the board of the conservative advocacy group Nebraska Family Alliance during the year in which he was nominated by Trump.[8] He served on the board of and as legal counsel to Nebraskans for the Death Penalty.[1][9][10][11]

Federal judicial service[edit]

On August 3, 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Grasz to serve as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, to the seat vacated by Judge William J. Riley, who assumed senior status on June 30, 2017.[12] On November 1, 2017, a hearing on his nomination was held before the Senate Judiciary Committee.[13]

In October 2017, the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, an entity which rates judicial nominees, unanimously voted to give Grasz a "not qualified" rating for the position. In a statement, the chair of the ABA's standing committee that reviews nominees said that Grasz's "temperament issues, particularly bias and lack of open-mindedness, were problematic".[14][15][16][17] Grasz was the first circuit court nominee to receive a unanimous "not qualified" rating since 2006.[18] Nebraskan Senators Ben Sasse and Deb Fischer defended Grasz's reputation and accused the ABA of conducting a biased evaluation "based on limited facts".[19][20] Grasz's nomination carried the support of former U.S. Senator and Governor Ben Nelson and former U.S. Attorney for the District of Nebraska Deborah R. Gilg, both Democrats.[2]

On November 15, 2017, Pamela Bresnahan, the chair of the ABA's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, testified before the U.S. Senate in order to explain the organization's vetting of Grasz. In his confirmation hearing, Grasz had testified that the ABA's review process was unprofessional.[21] On November 30, 2017, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley stated that follow-up materials from Grasz "appear to indicate that the ABA relied on faulty information in their evaluation". Upon the request of the Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, the committee vote on Grasz's nomination was delayed for one week.[22][23]

On December 7, 2017, his nomination was reported out of committee by a 11–9 vote.[24] On December 11, 2017, the Senate voted 48–47 to invoke cloture on his nomination.[25] On December 12, 2017, the full United States Senate voted 50–48 in favor of confirmation; the vote was along party lines with Senators John McCain and Thad Cochran absent.[26][27] He received his judicial commission on January 3, 2018.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees: Leonard Steven Grasz" (PDF).
  2. ^ a b c Simonson, Kevin (March 2, 2018). "Steve Grasz Takes the Bench". Omaha Magazine. Retrieved January 25, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "President Donald J. Trump Announces Sixth Wave of Judicial Candidates and Fifth Wave of U.S. Attorney Candidates", White House, August 3, 2017 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ a b Severino, Carrie (August 4, 2017). "Who is Steve Grasz?". National Review. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  5. ^ Voruganti, Harsh (October 31, 2017). "L. Steven Grasz". The Vetting Room.
  6. ^ Grasz, Steve (July 9, 2012). "Local View: Roberts jeopardized legitimacy of high court". Lincoln Journal-Star.
  7. ^ Harloe, Kate (October 31, 2017). "Senate Republicans Set to Move Forward with Judicial Nominee Rated "Not Qualified"". Mother Jones.
  8. ^ Ruiz, Rebecca R.; Gebeloff, Robert; Eder, Steve; Protess, Ben (March 14, 2020). "A Conservative Agenda Unleashed on the Federal Courts". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Tillman, Zoe (September 17, 2017). "One Of Trump's Judicial Nominees Sits On The Board Of A Group That Defends "Conversion" Therapy". BuzzFeed News.
  10. ^ Silva, Christianna (November 1, 2017). "Who Is Steve Grasz, Trump's Newest Federal Judge Nominee With Anti-LGBT History?". Newsweek.
  11. ^ Pilger, Lori (May 25, 2016). "Attorneys battle over whether death penalty should end up on November ballot". Lincoln Journal-Star.
  12. ^ "Eighteen Nominations Sent to the Senate Today – The White House". whitehouse.gov – via National Archives.
  13. ^ "United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary". www.judiciary.senate.gov.
  14. ^ Min Kim, Seung (October 30, 2017). "ABA deems another Trump judicial nominee 'not qualified'". Politico. Retrieved October 30, 2017.
  15. ^ Lawrenz Fare, ABA committee gives 8th Circuit nominee 'not qualified' rating, Jurist (November 1, 2017).
  16. ^ Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA committee explains its 'not qualified' rating for 8th Circuit nominee, ABA Journal (October 31, 2017).
  17. ^ "ABA Judicial Ratings Remain In GOP Senators' Crosshairs – Law360". www.law360.com.
  18. ^ Ryan, Tim (December 7, 2017). "Senate Panel Advances Nominations of 10 Federal Judges". Courthouse News Service. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  19. ^ Sasse, Ben; Fischer, Deb (November 5, 2017). "Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse: Grasz deserves seat on court". Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  20. ^ "Senate OKs Trump's 8th Circ. Pick Despite ABA Rating – Law360". www.law360.com.
  21. ^ Schneier, Cogan (November 15, 2017). "Cruz Rails Against ABA Vetting Amid Confusion About 8th Circuit Nominee". The National Law Journal. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  22. ^ "Prepared Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, Executive Business Meeting, November 30, 2017" (PDF).
  23. ^ Morton, Joseph (November 30, 2017). "Senate panel delays consideration of Omaha attorney Steve Grasz's nomination". Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  24. ^ "Results of Executive Business Meeting – December 7, 2017, Senate Judiciary Committee" (PDF).
  25. ^ "U.S. Senate: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 115th Congress – 1st Session". www.senate.gov.
  26. ^ "Leonard Steven Grasz, Trump judicial pick rated as "not qualified," OK'd by Senate".
  27. ^ "U.S. Senate: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 115th Congress – 1st Session". www.senate.gov.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
William J. Riley
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
2018–present
Incumbent