Stanford Review articles condemning efforts to advance diversity on campus — published over 20 years ago — came back to haunt author and former Review editor Ryan Bounds ’95 this week when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell withdrew his judicial nomination to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The decision to revoke the nomination came after two Republican senators, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida, declared they would not vote to confirm Bounds because of his attitudes on race relations, workers’ rights and sexual assault reflected in the Review pieces. Without the support of Scott and Rubio, Bounds’ chance at confirmation was unlikely.
McConnell withdrew the nomination before any official vote could take place.
Earlier this year, progressive judicial advocacy group Alliance for Justice (AFJ) condemned Bounds’ nomination, calling his Review writings “disturbing” in a February report uploaded to the organization’s website.
In a June op-ed published in The Daily, progressive activist Lizet Ocampo ’06 MA criticized Bounds’ “lack of regard for — and, in some cases, open derision of — the concerns of marginalized students.”
On Feb. 9, in response to the AFJ report, Bounds apologized for his writings in an email sent to the Multnomah Bar Association’s equity, diversity and inclusion committee in Oregon — a committee that Bounds had personally chaired for 5 months after serving as a subcommittee chair for the previous 3 years. Bounds resigned from the committee on Feb. 13 after the Board requested he do so in light of his writings.
“Being nominated for judicial office is an honor, but it has its downsides-including having the ill-considered, tone-deaf and mortifyingly insensitive pronouncements of one’s youth unearthed and scrutinized,” Bounds wrote.
Bounds’ apology was not enough to stop Oregon’s two Democratic senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, from working to block Bounds’ confirmation, which they vowed to do after his nomination was announced in September 2017. Bounds reportedly did not disclose his controversial writings for The Review to Oregon’s judicial selection committee.
In June, both of the Oregon senators refused to give the Senate Judiciary Committee “blue slips”, which would have indicated support of Bounds’ nomination. Merkley noted on the Senate floor that no judge “has ever been confirmed by [the Senate] not having received a single blue slip by a home-state senator.”
The Judiciary Committee forwarded Bounds to the Senate floor in an 11-10 vote made along party lines.
“You just couldn’t defend this judge on the indefensible,” Wyden told the Washington Post. He referred to the decision to withdraw Bounds’ nomination as a sign of “the Senate coming to its senses on judges.”
The withdrawal of Bounds’ nomination was widely supported by senators but still drew criticism beyond the Capital. David Lat, who studied law with Bounds at Yale and founded legal news site Above the Law, denounced claims that Bounds is racist and homophobic. Lat noted that, while he is a long-time friend of Bounds and therefore biased, he is also a gay man of color.
“Even assuming [Bounds’] involvement, this kind of racial insensitivity or even racism — from 25 years ago, balanced against [his] far more recent work to advance diversity and inclusion in the legal profession — strikes me as a thin reed upon which to hang rejection of his nomination,” Lat wrote.
Contact Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.
A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Bounds served 4 years as chair of the Multnomah Bar Association’s equity, diversity and inclusion committee. Bounds chaired the committee for only 5 months after serving on the committee as a subcommittee chair for the previous 3 years. The Daily regrets this error.