Robert J. Conrad
Robert James "Bob" Conrad Jr. (born 1958) is a federal judge on the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina and a former nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to take the place of the retired James Dickson Phillips Jr.
Conrad was born in Chicago, Illinois into a Catholic family. He graduated from Clemson University in 1980 and the University of Virginia Law School in 1983. In college, he was "the point guard in 1980 for what many consider Clemson's best basketball team ever.
As a U.S. attorney, he prosecuted cases of terrorism financing and campaign finance. Attorney General Janet Reno named Conrad as head of her campaign finance task force that investigated fund-raising improprieties during the 1996 U.S. election campaigns. He is best known for recommending an independent counsel be named to investigate then Vice President Al Gore.
During the Bush Administration, Attorney General John Ashcroft appointed Conrad as the head of the Advisory Committee on Terrorism Financing. Conrad was instrumental in prosecuting supporters of the Hezbollah terrorist cell in North Carolina.
Conrad was confirmed April 28, 2005 as a U.S. district court judge for the Western District of North Carolina. He received his judicial commission on June 2, 2005. He became Chief Judge of the district in 2006 and served in that capacity until 2013.
Judge Conrad has been a member of the faculty of the National Trial Advocacy College at the University of Virginia School of Law,—"the country's premier trial advocacy program for lawyers"—--since 2000.
In 2015, Judge Conrad received the prestigious William J. Brennan Award from the National Trial Advocacy College. The Brennan Award was established in 1987, with Justice Brennan's unsurpassed contributions to the United States legal system and, in particular, to the enhancement of trial advocacy skills. The honorees – judges, public officials, and private practitioners – are selected on the basis of 1) their outstanding skills as trial lawyers and members of the judiciary, and 2) their outstanding contributions to advocacy education and to the legal profession
Federal Appeals nomination
On July 17, 2007, Judge Conrad was nominated by President George W. Bush to a controversial North Carolina seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated by Judge James Dickson Phillips Jr. in 1994.
Originally, President George H. W. Bush nominated Terrence Boyle to a Fourth Circuit seat, but the Senate Democrats who were in control of the 102nd Congress refused to process his nomination. During his two-term administration, President Bill Clinton tried to integrate the Fourth Circuit by filling the seat with two African-American jurists, first James A. Beaty Jr. and secondly James A. Wynn Jr.. Because Clinton refused to renominate Boyle to the Fourth Circuit, then North Carolina senator, Jesse Helms, blocked both nominees.
On May 9, 2001, Boyle was nominated by President George W. Bush to the Fourth Circuit again, this time to the seat vacated by Judge Phillips in 1994. His nomination was never brought to a vote on the floor of the Senate. For over five years, the nomination was stalled. Boyle's nomination is the longest federal appeals court nomination never given a full Senate vote.
His nomination was adamantly opposed by Democrats from the beginning. Former North Carolina Democrat and Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards claimed Boyle was an opponent of civil rights and disabilities legislation. Boyle's supporters viewed Boyle as the victim of political payback and obstruction because of his ties to Helms, who had blocked Clinton's two nominees to the seat because of Boyle, and the determination of liberal politicians not to let conservatives serve at the highest levels of the federal judiciary.
In March 2005, following Bush's re-election and an increased Republican Senate majority, the Senate Judiciary Committee gave Boyle a hearing almost a full four years after his nomination. On June 16, 2005, Boyle was voted out of Committee on a 10-8 party line vote.
In April 2006, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he would try to schedule a vote in May on the nomination of Boyle. No vote occurred however. With the Democrats taking over the U.S. Senate in the 110th Congress, Boyle's confirmation chances markedly decreased. On January 9, 2007, the White House announced that it would not be re-nominating Boyle to the Fourth Circuit. At the time, Boyle clearly stated he did not voluntarily withdraw his nomination. Conrad was nominated to replace Boyle.
Although he had the support of North Carolina's two Republican senators, Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr, Judge Conrad ran into immediate opposition from Senate Democrats and liberal groups such as People for the American Way and the Alliance for Justice. There were concerns over both Conrad's writings prior to his confirmation as a district court judge and his rulings later as a judge.
Conrad had referred to Planned Parenthood’s OB/GYNs as “abortionists.” He also wrote that “Planned Parenthood knowingly kills unborn babies, not fetuses, as a method of post conception contraception.” Additionally, he claimed that Planned Parenthood had done nothing to reduce teen pregnancy rates and should not receive funding for its contraception services. In 1999, Conrad wrote "Habitually Wrong" which was published in the Catholic Dossier. In it, he heavily criticized Sister Helen Prejean’s book Dead Man Walking. He referred to the book as “liberal drivel” and to Sister Prejean as a “Church-hating nun.” He contended that, “This surprisingly shallow book wallows in worn-out liberal shibboleths and dated anecdotes.”
In addition, according to People for the American Way, Judge Conrad's short tenure on the district court had not served to put to rest the concerns raised by his pre-judicial record. To the contrary, this activist group stated that he “'consistently ruled against plaintiffs alleging employment discrimination,' he appear[ed] hostile to the rights of criminal defendants, and, sitting by designation on the Fourth Circuit, he joined an anti-environmental ruling overturning a district court decision that the Army Corps of Engineers had violated the Clean Water Act in approving a permit for the discharge of material from mountain-top mining."
During the 110th Congress, Senator Patrick Leahy D-VT, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, used Judge Conrad's comments on Prejean to justify why he refused to schedule a hearing for Conrad. He said that Conrad was "anti-Catholic", which enraged Senate Republicans. The Republicans countered that Conrad, himself a Catholic, had merely criticized Prejean for “the near total contempt [she] displayed for the Roman Catholic Church.” In short, Conrad was defending the Catholic Church from the anti-Catholic comments he believed the nun to have made.
- Esser, William L. IV. "Bob Conrad Sworn in as Western District Federal Judge", The Mecklenberg Bar News, Mecklenberg County Bar, Vol. 32, No. 2, August 2005, pp. 1–2.
- Profile at FindLaw
- Robert J. Conrad at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges (Federal Judicial Center); accessed 29 February 2012.
- Article at News & Observer Archived October 29, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Nominations Sent to the Senate" at archives.gov
- Article[dead link] at Charlotte Observer
- NCWD Judges at USCourts.gov
- Article[dead link] at News & Observer
- Lewis, Neil A. "Bush Drops Plans to Renominate 3 Judges", The New York Times, 10 January 2007.
- Article at News & Observer Archived September 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- Conrad, Robert J. Jr. "Planned Parenthood, A Radical, Pro-Abortion Fringe Group", Charlotte Observer, 14 June 1988, 19A.
- Preliminary Report on the Nomination of Robert J. Conrad Jr. to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Alliance for Justice
- Kolbert, Katherine. Letter to Patrick Leahy and Arlen Spector regarding 4th Circuit, People for the American Way, 28 April 2008.
- Whelan, Ed (4 April 2008). "Leahy's 'Anti-Catholic' Smear". National Review Online. National Review. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
- Levey, Curt (20 June 2008). "Judge Conrad and Leahy the Lapdog". Committee for Justice Blog. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
- Barrett, Barbara; Johnson, Mark (5 November 2009). "N.C. has 2 up for Court of Appeals". News & Observer. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
- Hillyer, Quin. "The Lowdown on the Slowdown", The American Spectator, 19 June 2008.
|Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina