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Court Pick Apologizes for Racist Remarks

Oregon nominee says college writings were misguided

Beverly Corbell | 2/13/2018, 2:47 p.m.
Federal prosecutor and Oregon native Ryan Bounds has come under fire for making racist, sexist and homophobic attacks on multiculturalism ...
Ryan Bounds

Federal prosecutor and Oregon native Ryan Bounds has come under fire for making racist, sexist and homophobic attacks on multiculturalism back in college, and although he apologized Friday, his nomination from President Trump for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals still reflects who is today, according to the activist group, Alliance for Justice.

The alliance sent a “snapshot” report to media earlier this month stating that while a student at Stanford University in California back in the 1990s, Bounds complained in opinion pieces that “race-focused groups” should not be allowed on campus and used racist and offensive language to describe people with backgrounds and beliefs that were different from his own.

The group also claims that Bounds wrote “condescendingly and dismissively” about sexual assault on college campus and that alleged perpetrators should be punished or expelled only if their guilt is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the same words the president used when defending a recently-dismissed West Wing staff member.

The writings reveal strong biases that call into question Bounds’ ability to fairly apply the law and dispense even-handed justice to all, the Alliance for Justice wrote in their Feb. 2 report which is available online at afj.org.

Bounds, 44, responded to the claims on Friday in an email to the Multnomah County Bar Association’s Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, a panel he chairs, apologizing for “misguided sentiments” in his youthful writings.

In a copy of the email obtained and shared by the Oregonian, Bounds said the remarks no longer reflect his views and called them “ill-considered, tone-deaf, and mortifyingly insensitive pronouncements of one’s youth.”

If confirmed, Bounds, an Assistant U.S. Attorney for Oregon, is predicted by some to become the president’s standard-bearer where immigration rights are concerned. Others are concerned that the administration is packing federal courts with right-wing justices who can hobble progressive objectives for decades to come. But for some — Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden included — the way Bounds was nominated is even more troubling because they were left out of the process.

On Monday, Merkley and Wyden released the names of four possible nominees chosen by a bipartisan committee, comprised of attorneys appointed by the two senators and Oregon U.S. Rep. Greg Walden. The list includes Bounds, Medford trial attorney Kelly Anderson, Portland appellate attorney Thomas Christ, and Renata Gowie, another assistant U.S. attorney for Oregon.

But Wyden and Merkley made their feelings about Bounds abundantly clear:

“After the committee finished its work, we learned that Ryan Bounds failed to disclose inflammatory writings that reveal archaic and alarming views about sexual assault, the rights of workers, people of color, and the LGBTQ community,” they said. “While we have followed through on our commitment to forward to the White House the names reported by the committee, we do not believe Mr. Bounds is a suitable nominee for a lifetime appointment to the bench.”

Bounds, who grew up in eastern Oregon, was first nominated for the Ninth Circuit by President Trump last year, but the year ran out before his nomination could come up before the Senate Judiciary Committee. This was after the administration ignored Merkley and Wyden’s call to nominate U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez for the post, as well as their lack of endorsement for Bounds.