Lawrence VanDyke

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Lawrence VanDyke
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Assumed office
January 2, 2020
Appointed byDonald Trump
Preceded byJay Bybee
Solicitor General of Nevada
In office
January 5, 2015 – January 7, 2019
Attorney GeneralAdam Laxalt
Succeeded byHeidi Stern
Solicitor General of Montana
In office
January 2013 – May 30, 2014[1]
Attorney GeneralTim Fox
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byDale Schowengerdt
Personal details
Born (1972-12-15) December 15, 1972 (age 48)[citation needed]
Midland, Texas, U.S.
EducationMontana State University (BS, MS)
Bear Valley Bible Institute (BTh)
Harvard University (JD)

Lawrence James Christopher VanDyke (born December 15, 1972)[citation needed] is an American attorney and jurist serving as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is a former solicitor general of Nevada and Montana.

Early life and education[edit]

VanDyke was born in Midland, Texas and raised in Bozeman, Montana.[2]

VanDyke earned his Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Montana State University in 1997 and a Master of Arts in 2000.[3] In 2005, he received his Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review and the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.[4] Before law school, he worked in his family's construction company and received a Bachelor of Theology from Bear Valley Bible Institute.[4]


After graduating from law school in 2005, VanDyke served as a law clerk to Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He then worked in private practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. While in private practice, VanDyke performed pro bono legal work for groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Free Market Foundation, and the Alliance Defending Freedom.[5][6] In 2010, VanDyke filed an amicus brief in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez on behalf of Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty in which he argued that a college student group had a First Amendment right to exclude from membership students whose sexual conduct violated the group's stated beliefs.[7]

From 2012–2013, VanDyke was an Assistant Solicitor General of Texas. He served as Solicitor General of Montana from 2013–2014, when he resigned, citing strain in the workplace.[8] As Solicitor General of Montana, he submitted numerous amicus curiae briefs filed in other states. He recommended signing on to other states' challenges to state and federal gun laws, co-wrote a brief supporting an Arizona law prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks, and recommended that Montana file a brief in a New Mexico case involving a photographer who refused to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony.[9]

VanDyke later ran unsuccessfully for the Montana Supreme Court. He became Solicitor General of Nevada under Attorney General Adam Laxalt in 2015, where he served until 2019 when he became a deputy Assistant Attorney General for the United States Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division.[10]

Since graduating law school, VanDyke has been a member of the Federalist Society.[3]

Federal judicial service[edit]

On September 20, 2019, President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate VanDyke to serve as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.[10] Nevada Senators Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto, both Democrats, announced their opposition in the nomination.[11] The nomination was to the seat being vacated by Judge Jay Bybee, who previously announced his intention to take senior status on December 31, 2019.[12] Six retired justices of the Montana Supreme Court publicly opposed VanDyke’s nomination.[13]

VanDyke received a "not qualified" rating from the American Bar Association. ABA evaluators conducted 60 anonymous interviews with lawyers, judges, and others who had worked with VanDyke. In unusually personal terms, the ABA published a scathing critique of VanDyke in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee; that letter asserted that interviewees described VanDyke as "'arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to-day practice'" of law.[14] The ABA added that "'There was a theme that the nominee lacks humility, has an 'entitlement' temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful'".[15] The ABA also raised "concerns about whether Mr. VanDyke would be fair to persons who are gay, lesbian, or otherwise part of the LGBTQ community, adding that "Mr. VanDyke would not say affirmatively that he would be fair to any litigant before him, notably members of the LGBTQ community."[16]

On October 30, 2019, a hearing on VanDyke's nomination was held before the Senate Judiciary Committee.[17] Most of the two-hour hearing was focused on VanDyke's record on LGBTQ issues.[18] During his confirmation hearing, VanDyke was asked by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), "Did you say that you wouldn't be fair to members of the LGBTQ community?"[19] VanDyke broke down in tears, denying the accusation: "'I did not say that. I do not believe that. It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God and they should all be treated with dignity and respect'". Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), questioned VanDyke about an opinion editorial he wrote in 2004 while a student at Harvard Law noting that same-sex marriage may be harmful for children. VanDyke stated that his views had changed since that time.[15] VanDyke said that during a three-hour meeting with the ABA, the ABA evaluator told him that she was in a "hurry" and did not give him the opportunity to fully respond to concerns. The ABA acknowledged that the lead ABA evaluator assigned to VanDyke, Montana attorney Marcia Davenport, contributed $150 to VanDyke's opponent in a 2014 Montana Supreme Court election.[20]

The ABA's treatment of VanDyke was denounced by conservative commentators. Writing for National Review, John McCormack asked: "Were VanDyke's comments to the ABA twisted or taken wildly out of context in order to paint him as a bigot? It is hard to believe any judicial nominee would suggest during an interview with the ABA that he might not be 'fair' to all litigants." McCormack asked the ABA for a transcript of the relevant portion of its interview with VanDyke, but the ABA declined to provide one, citing confidentiality.[19] Legal scholar Adam White, a former member of the ABA's Administrative Law Section, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that there was "no basis on which to evaluate any of the broad-brush descriptions of Mr. VanDyke. We don't know what basis, if any, his critics have for these judgments, or even who they are. We're expected to take the ABA's disparagement at face value".[21] The Wall Street Journal editorial board also published a critique of the ABA's treatment of VanDyke.[22]

On November 21, 2019, VanDyke's nomination was reported out of committee by a party line 12–10 vote.[23] On December 10, 2019, the full United States Senate invoked cloture on his nomination by a vote of 53–40.[24] On December 11, 2019, his nomination was confirmed by a vote of 51–44.[25] He received his judicial commission on January 2, 2020.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ By Charles S. Johnson IR State Bureau. "VanDyke resigning as state solicitor general | State and Regional". Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  2. ^ "VanDyke seeks to bring appellate law background to Supreme Court". Independent Record. March 13, 2014. Retrieved October 19, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Who Is Lawrence VanDyke?". National Review. September 20, 2019. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees" (PDF). 2019.
  5. ^ Severino, Carrie (September 20, 2019). "Who Is Lawrence VanDyke?". National Review. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  6. ^ "Colleague questions VanDyke's experience". Great Falls Tribune.
  7. ^ Dahlia Lithwick, Mark Joseph Stern. "The latest "unqualified" Trump judicial nominee thinks he's the real victim". Retrieved November 2, 2019.
  8. ^ FAL Published 10:11 p.m. MT Oct. 25, 2014 (October 25, 2014). "Great Falls Tribune". Great Falls Tribune. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  9. ^ John S. Adams (September 18, 2014). "Montana Supreme Court: VanDyke takes the spotlight". Great Falls Tribune. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  10. ^ a b "President Donald J. Trump Announces Judicial Nominees and United States Marshal Nominee". September 20, 2019. Retrieved September 20, 2019 – via National Archives. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  11. ^ Sanchez, Humberto (September 20, 2019). "Nevada senators raise concerns about Trump's intention to tap ex-Nevada solicitor general for Ninth Circuit". Nevada Independent. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
  12. ^ "Twenty-five Nominations and Three Withdrawals Sent to the Senate". – via National Archives.
  13. ^ NELSON, JAMES C. (November 2, 2019). "Guest view: VanDyke unqualified for judgeship". Montana Standard. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  14. ^ Hardy, Nathan R.; Jolly, Richard L (December 18, 2019). "Opinion: Trump is packing courts with right-wing ideologues. Democrats, what's your plan?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  15. ^ a b Blitzer, Ronn (October 30, 2019). "Trump judicial pick breaks down in tears at hearing over legal group's attack". Fox News.
  16. ^ Knowles, Hannah (October 30, 2019). "Trump judicial nominee cries over scathing letter from the American Bar Association". Washington Post. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  17. ^ "Nominations | United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary".
  18. ^ Keen, Lisa. "Bay Area Reporter :: Online Extra: Trump judicial nominee defends himself against anti-LGBT claims". Retrieved November 2, 2019.
  19. ^ a b McCormack, John (October 31, 2019). "The ABA's Attack on Lawrence VanDyke Doesn't Make Sense". National Review. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  20. ^ de Vogue, Ariane; Rogers, Alex (October 30, 2019). "'Not qualified' rating and accusation from American Bar Association moves Trump nominee to tears". CNN. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  21. ^ White, Adam (October 30, 2019). "Another Smear Campaign From the American Bar Association". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
  22. ^ "The ABA Strikes Again". Wall Street Journal. October 30, 2019. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
  23. ^ "Results of Executive Business Meeting – November 21, 2019, Senate Judiciary Committee" (PDF).
  24. ^ "VanDyke nomination for 9th Circuit Court clears procedural vote". December 11, 2019.
  25. ^ Stern, Mark Joseph (December 11, 2019). "Senate Confirms Trump Judicial Nominee Who Cried When Confronted With Anti-Gay Record". Slate Magazine.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Jay Bybee
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit