Nominee for 9th Circuit Appeals Court under fire for racial ‘hostility’ in college writings
Ryan Bounds, a federal prosecutor nominated to fill a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote opinion pieces as a student at Stanford University that derided multiculturalism on campus and expressed disdain for “race-focused groups,” an advocacy group says in a new report that questions his fitness for the judgeship.
“Bounds’s writings reveal strong biases that call into question his ability to fairly apply the law and to maintain confidence in the justice system’s ability to dispense even-handed justice to all,” the liberal Alliance for Justice said in the report.
Bounds, a politically conservative assistant U.S. attorney in Portland who now chairs the Multnomah Bar Association’s equity, diversity and inclusion committee, disavowed the pieces in an email he sent Friday night to committee members.
Bounds, 44, said that the disadvantage of being nominated was “having the ill-considered, tone-deaf, and mortifyingly insensitive pronouncements of one’s youth unearthed and scrutinized.”
He apologized in the email for his “misguided sentiments.”
He said he wanted to assure the committee “the objectionable words and views recited from three or four of my college op-eds do not reflect the views I have hewn to as a lawyer, and frankly, as a grown-up.”
Bounds has served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Oregon since 2010. He received his bachelor of arts degree from Stanford University in 1995 and his law degree from Yale Law School in 1999.
The Alliance for Justice report pulls excerpts from Bounds’ pieces for The Stanford Review, in which he mocks what he described as “race-think,” student ethnic groups and the university’s response to alleged sexual assaults.
These are some of the excerpts cited by the alliance:
— “During my years in our Multicultural Garden of Eden,” Bounds wrote, “I have often marveled at the odd strategies that some of the more strident racial factions of the student body employ in their attempts to ‘heighten consciousness,’ ‘build tolerance,’ ‘promote diversity,’ and otherwise convince us to partake of that fruit which promises to open our eyes to a PC version of the knowledge of good and evil. I am mystified because these tactics seem always to contribute more to restricting consciousness, aggravating intolerance and pigeonholing cultural identifies than many a Nazi bookburning.”
— “I submit that the Multiculturalistas, when they divide up by race for their feel-good ethnic hoedowns, engage in nearly all of (the fundamental behaviors of group think. ).”
— “If a black person is an individualist and a thoroughgoing capitalist who eschews victimhood status and its concomitant entitlements, race-thinkers are quick to brand him,” and Bounds then listed derogatory terms that are often used, including ‘sell out.”
— “The existence of ethnic organizations is no inevitable prerequisite to maintaining a diverse community — white students, after all, seem to be doing all right without an Aryan Student Union.”
Bounds also wrote about sexual assault and university punishments of students accused of rape.
— “But there is nothing really inherently wrong with the University failing to punish an alleged rapist — regardless his guilt — in the absence of adequate certainty; there is nothing that the University can do to objectively ensure that the rapist does not strike again.”
— Expelling students “is probably not going to contribute a great deal toward a rape victim’s recovery; there is no more imperative to risk egregious error in doing so.”
The Alliance for Justice cited the excerpts and said Bounds “must be held accountable” for the articles “in which he belittles allegations of campus sexual assault and rape and supports making it more difficult to hold perpetrators of campus sexual assault accountable; derides multiculturalism on campus; mocks student affinity organization, calling their gatherings ‘feel-good ethnic hoedowns.'”
The alliance also said Bounds used derogatory language to describe how he believed others viewed some members of the student body.
Bounds, in his email, said his mindset significantly shifted once he was in the working world.
“Achieving a more egalitarian and inclusive society has always been centrally important to me. Appropriate sensitivity to the views of others-particularly those from marginalized communities-about how best to pursue that aim, however, came to me only after I’d left college for the workaday world,” Bounds wrote. “I regret that, and I apologize to you all for the obnoxious tone and misguided sentiments you will hear about because of it. Please know that my commitment to our shared mission will only be redoubled by this unpleasant reminder of my errors of nearly a quarter-century ago.”
Bounds, reached Saturday, referred to his email and declined further comment.
In September, the White House nominated Bounds to fill a seat on the 9th Circuit vacated by Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, who assumed senior status in December 2016. An administration official declined comment Saturday.
U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, vowed to block Bounds’ nomination, saying he wasn’t vetted through their bipartisan judicial selection committee.
Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, said that the senators had plenty of time to raise objections or suggest alternatives when the White House first raised Bounds as the leading candidate last May. The senators were seeking U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez, for the vacancy.
Bounds, a native of Umatilla and a graduate of Hermiston High School, is a member of the Federalist Society and likely to bring a conservative voice to the nation’s most liberal federal circuit. He’s also the brother of the chief of staff to Oregon’s only Republican congressman, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden.
Walden, in a statement last month, praised Bounds, saying, “His commitment to the rule of law, liberty and self-government are, in my mind, beyond question.”
In a letter to be submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, the vice president of Western Oregon University, an emergency department physician at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center and three others from the corporate and medical field — all of whom attended middle school with Bounds — cite their continued support for him. They argue that Bounds has grown since his writings for the alternative conservative college paper, the Stanford Review.
“We have never known him even to suggest — by word or deed- any personal animosity for anyone based on his or her race, gender, creed, ethnicity or sexual orientation,” they wrote. “We know Ryan regrets and is embarrassed by the tone of his writings as a conservative college student.”
The letter is signed by Ryan Hagemann, vice president of Western Oregon University, attorney Sally Anderson Hansell, Legacy Emanuel Dr. Aloysius Fobi, Andrea Streedain, business operations director for Starbucks Coffee Company, and Nhan Nguyen, chief financial officer of American Medical Concepts Inc.
Yet Barbara J. Diamond, a veteran Portland lawyer who provides legal diversity and inclusion training and was recently appointed to the Multnomah Bar Association’s equity committee, doesn’t accept Bounds’ apology. She said she was not satisfied that Bounds described his college writings as “tone deaf” and “embarrassing.”
“I view his op-eds as racist and homophobic. Failure to use these words to me says that Bounds has not really learned his lesson and is not accountable,” Diamond said. “The best apology this 44-year-old prosecutor could make would be to withdraw his name and endorse Judge Hernandez for the job. That would be the best way to show he has repudiated his privilege.”
Portland lawyer Ashlee J. Albies said she doesn’t believe the current administration properly vets judicial candidates. “Given who nominated him, it sounds somewhat unsurprising,” Albies said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee didn’t vote on Bounds’ nomination last year, and the White House renominated him in January. Oregon’s judicial selection committee may announce its own recommendation soon.
Following the 2016 election, Bounds said he called Walden’s office to express interest in the vacancy on the federal appellate court. He was interviewed by the members of the White House counsel’s office in March 2017.
Bounds previously worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy, and the Portland law firm Stoel Rives. After law school, he clerked for 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge O’Scannlain.
— Maxine Bernstein
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