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Franken to block Trump-nominated Minnesota judge from federal bench

President Trump nominated Justice David Stras in May.

One of Minnesota's Supreme Court justices could be on his way to the federal bench – but not if Al Franken has anything to say about it.

And as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he does.

Associate Justice David Stras, who's been a member of Minnesota's highest court since 2010 (when he was appointed by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty), was nominated by President Donald Trump for the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May.

He also made a list of possible U.S. Supreme Court nominees last year, when Trump was still running for president. 

But now, Sen. Al Franken says he's going to use a time-honored but little-known legislative process (more on that below) to oppose Stras's nomination. 

The reason? 

"Justice Stras," Franken wrote in a lengthy Facebook statement Tuesday, "would be a deeply conservative jurist in the mold of Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, justices who the nominee himself has identified as role models."

Read Franken's full statement here: 

Franken's plan

At the end of the statement, the Democrat said he has "decided not to return a blue slip to the (Senate Judiciary) Committee."

What does that mean? Politico explains it like this: 

"The blue slip process, a longtime Senate tradition, holds that the Judiciary Committeedoesn’t hold a confirmation hearing for judicial nomineeswithout permission from the candidate’s home-state senators, although that rule has been less adhered to for circuit court picks under previous administrations."

In other words, Franken's refusal to submit a blue slip for Stras could very well prevent the judge from even getting a hearing. Without a hearing, there's no vote, and that could keep Stras in Minnesota.

Despite their political differences, however, Franken did say that Stras "is a committed public servant whose tenure as a professor at the University of Minnesota underscores just how much he cares about the law. That is undeniably true."

What about Klobuchar?

Also a Democrat as well as a member of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar also wields considerable power over Stras's nomination.

But she's apparently not withholding her blue slip like Franken is. 

"While Justice Stras was not my choice for the 8th Circuit Court," she wrote in a statement on Tuesday, "it is my view that he deserves a hearing before the Senate."

“I have enjoyed getting to know Justice Stras throughout this process and I know he will continue to serve admirably on the Minnesota Supreme Court,” Klobuchar added. 

However, she also made it clear that she respects Franken's move to block a hearing for Stras, and said the blue slip process – which she calls a "check and balance" – should be followed by the Judiciary Committee.

"Changing this policy would have serious ramifications for judicial nominations in every state in the country," she wrote.

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