A Go Around the 9th Circuit

U of I Law grad Danielle Hunsaker could end up on the 9th Circuit Appellate Court


The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has a reputation. It struck down Idaho's same-sex marriage ban, dealt a major blow to Boise's anti-camping ordinance and, most recently, ordered the State of Idaho to begin treatment for an Idaho transgender inmate, Adree Edmo, ahead of her court-ordered sex reassignment surgery. Ask Trump nominee Danielle Hunsaker, though, and she'll say there's more to the story than Idaho being a red state in a blue circuit court.

"I'm aware of the reputation that the Ninth Circuit has," Hunsaker said. "I went to school in Idaho, and I've lived in the Ninth Circuit most of my career ... Of course, I'm aware of the common reputation that it has. I'm not sure that reputation is always deserved."

On Sept. 25, Hunsaker, a circuit judge in Washington County, Oregon, sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a job interview after being nominated to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The University of Idaho law graduate is one of many nominated to federal judgeships by the Trump administration, but was adamant that her purview is the law, not politics.

"I guess I view judges as having, particularly in the federal realm, a defined role in our system of government, and that is to apply the law to specific cases that come before them," she said. "It's not a lawmaking body."

Hunsaker grew up in Oregon to a stay-at-home mom and a construction worker, and is the first in her family to attend college. Her father traveled for work, and she moved from southern to central Oregon, and eventually to Idaho.

"My father was traveling for work outside of the State of Oregon for different construction projects, and my mother and I spent my senior year in Rexburg," she said. "I met my husband there. We got married right at the time that we were graduating from Ricks [College, now BYU-Idaho]. We were deciding what to do next."

She then attended college and law school at the University of Idaho, joining the Federalist Society, which would become a feeder organization for President Donald Trump's judicial picks. Later, she would clerk for judges Paul Joseph Kelly of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Michael W. Mosman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon and Diarmuid O'Scannlain of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Coincidentally, it's the two-year vacancy opened by O'Scannlain's assuming senior status in 2016 that Hunsaker may fill. Trump first nominated Ryan Bounds, who was opposed by Oregon sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden. Trump then nominated Hunsaker, who was greeted with some warmth by the Senate Judiciary Committee, while her staff back in Washington County was glued to C-SPAN watching the hearing. However, Hunsaker isn't celebrating yet.

"For one, it would be premature," she said. "I can't say I've celebrated at this point, and have a day job to keep up with, and it's pretty, pretty busy."