Senate approves former biofuels attorney for 8th Circuit

Source: Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2018

President Trump’s pick for the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finally cleared the Senate today with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.

After repeated delays, former biofuels attorney Jonathan Kobes is now poised to take his seat on the St. Louis-based appellate court. The final vote was 51-50.

Kobes did not win support from any Democrats, who have raised concerns about his qualifications. The American Bar Association in September concluded that the nominee was not qualified for the role, lacking the litigation and writing experience necessary to be a circuit court judge. Republicans have dismissed the organization’s ratings as political.

Environmental groups also came out against Kobes in recent months, citing concerns about his qualifications and his work with ethanol company Poet LLC (E&E Daily, Nov. 30).

One Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, voted against Kobes. The retiring senator has promised to oppose judicial nominees until the Senate schedules a vote on legislation to protect the ongoing special counsel investigation of the 2016 presidential election.

Kobes will occasionally review environmental issues on the 8th Circuit. In recent years, for example, the court has fielded litigation related to Clean Water Act jurisdiction, haze reduction plans for coal-fired p