Who is Chad Meredith, the anti-abortion Republican President Biden plans to make a judge?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·7 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky native. Abortion foe. Card-carrying Federalist Society Republican.

Kentucky's next federal judge?

Progressive Democrats and the Twitterverse are in an uproar after The Courier Journal revealed June 29 that President Joe Biden had planned to nominate Chad Meredith for district court judge in Eastern Kentucky.

Biden's White House notified Gov. Andy Beshear's administration in an email on June 23 that Meredith was "to be nominated tomorrow."

A White House email to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's office announces that conservative Republican Chad Meredith will be nominated as a candidate for an Eastern Kentucky federal judgeship.
A White House email to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's office announces that conservative Republican Chad Meredith will be nominated as a candidate for an Eastern Kentucky federal judgeship.

But the next day, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling striking down Roe v. Wade and rescinding the nearly 50-year-old constitutional right to abortion.

The White House never announced Meredith's nomination as it planned. But there is also no evidence it has been rescinded, despite the pleas of Democrats.

More: Biden backs anti-abortion Republican for Kentucky judgeship in apparent McConnell deal

Here's what we know about Meredith, and why Biden planned to nominate him:

A lawyer for former Gov. Matt Bevin

Meredith has been a member of the international law firm Squire Patton Boggs, working in the Cincinnati office since 2021.

"Chad is an exciting addition to our litigation team who brings impeccable credentials and extensive expertise handling high-stakes appellate litigation and trials," John Burlingame, the law firm's global Litigation Practice co-chair, said at his hiring.

Before that, Meredith worked for Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who appointed him as the commonwealth's first solicitor general in 2019 to represent Kentucky in all civil and criminal appeals in the U.S. Supreme Court, the federal courts of appeals, the Kentucky Supreme Court and the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

Meredith served as the chief deputy general counsel for Gov. Matt Bevin from 2015-19, representing Bevin in litigation and advising the executive branch on policy and legal issues.

He is the son of Kentucky Sen. Stephen Chad Meredith. His father, who was elected in 2017, was a hospital CEO and past chairman of the Kentucky Hospital Association.

Kentucky Sen. Stephen Meredith
Kentucky Sen. Stephen Meredith

More: Democrats furious at Biden's pending nomination of anti-abortion Republican for judge seat

Meredith a fierce abortion opponent

As chief deputy general counsel, Meredith defended a 2017 Kentucky abortion law requiring doctors who perform abortions to first perform an ultrasound and describe the image to the patient.

He lost at a trial in federal court but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld the statute.

In 2018, Meredith also successfully defended the commonwealth's "right-to-work" law before the Kentucky Supreme Court, as labor unions challenged whether the law violated the constitution.

Meredith also represented Bevin in a lawsuit where Planned Parenthood argued the administration violated state law by refusing to issue its clinic a license to perform abortions. Planned Parenthood got their license in early 2020 after Bevin was voted out of office and the Beshear administration dropped the lawsuit.

As Cameron's solicitor general, Meredith also successfully defended a state law in the Kentucky Supreme Court that stripped Gov. Beshear of his emergency power to implement COVID-19 restrictions.

The previous year, Meredith was unsuccessful in the attorney general office's legal challenge to Beshear's emergency orders responding to the pandemic. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the governor had the power to enact those orders.

Meredith's involvement in controversial Matt Bevin pardons

The Courier Journal reported in 2020 that Meredith was one of the staff attorneys involved in Bevin's controversial pardons and commutations as the governor was finishing his term in 2019.

Bevin narrowly lost in the governor's race to Beshear, who was Kentucky's attorney general at the time.

In his waning weeks in office, Bevin signed a flurry of clemency petitions that resulted in widespread criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.

Bevin administration documents showed Meredith was one of Bevin's general counsel staff to give recommendations to the governor on whether certain applicants deserve clemency.

More: Kentucky federal judge to step down, opening seat for Biden's anti-abortion GOP nominee

One spreadsheet of clemency applicants from those records showed "Chad working" written next to the name of Patrick Baker — one of the most inflammatory pardon recipients, who was convicted of killing a man in a robbery and whose family hosted a fundraiser for Bevin at his home.

Bevin attended a campaign fundraiser held by Baker's family before granting the clemency petition. But he denied that it had anything to do with his decision.

Former Gov. Matt Bevin (left) speaks with Eric Baker (right) and others guests at his campaign fundraiser on July 26, 2018 at the Corbin home of Baker.
Former Gov. Matt Bevin (left) speaks with Eric Baker (right) and others guests at his campaign fundraiser on July 26, 2018 at the Corbin home of Baker.

Baker eventually was convicted on federal charges in the slaying and is back in prison. The FBI has acknowledged it is investigating Bevin's pardon.

Meredith’s personal lawyer, Brandon Marshall, previously told The Courier Journal that Meredith had "no meaningful involvement with any of the most controversial pardons about which the media has made much."

Meredith was being vetted for a federal judgeship in 2020 by President Donald Trump’s administration but was later dropped from consideration for that position.

A Kentucky native with big credentials

A native of Leitchfield, Kentucky, Meredith graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2004 and from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 2007, where he was a recipient of the Bert Combs Scholarship.

The scholarship is awarded to "the brightest and best law school applicants, from among resident and nonresident candidates."

He clerked for Judge John M. Rogers on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit from 2007-08, then for Judge Amul R. Thapar on the district court for the Eastern District of Kentucky from 2008-09.

White House email: Biden planned to nominate anti-abortion GOP judge the day of Roe ruling

Following his clerkships, Meredith practiced as a litigator with Frost Brown Todd in Louisville from 2009-11 before joining Ransdell & Roach of Lexington from 2011-15.

Meredith is also a longtime member of the Federalist Society, an American legal organization of conservatives and libertarians that advocates for a textualist and originalist interpretation of the Constitution. The group has helped place several justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Why would Biden pick Meredith for a federal judge?

Meredith's credential would seem to make him a better fit for Republican presidents.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias, who studies judicial appointments, told The Courier Journal the Meredith nomination "does seem odd."

But Tobias said the White House may have decided it was worth it to appoint Meredith after seeing how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had recently blocked the potential nomination of two potential U.S. attorneys.

Tobias theorized Biden may have sought to minimize opposition from McConnell to those and future judicial vacancies during the balance of Biden’s presidency.

Two other officials familiar with the nomination told The Courier Journal that was part of the deal.

And U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Louisville Democrat who vehemently opposes the nomination said a deal is almost certainly behind Meredith's nomination.

"Given that a judicial position isn’t currently open on the Eastern District Court, it’s clear that this is part of some larger deal on judicial nominations between the president and Mitch McConnell," Yarmuth told The Courier Journal last week.

Two days later, a judgeship opened up when District Judge Karen Caldwell's application for senior judge status became public.

U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell
U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell

Neither, McConnell nor the White House nor Meredith have commented on the nomination.

Is Meredith qualified to be a federal judge?

Meredith's credentials, as well as working as a law clerk to a federal district and appeals court judge, would support his nomination to district court, Tobias said.

Luke Milligan, a professor at the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law who has defended the appointment of other Kentucky conservatives to the bench, said Meredith is "an excellent litigator, and he’ll make a terrific federal judge — he’s smart, hardworking, principled, and fair."

The Kentucky Right to Life Association also has said it has been “very impressed” with his abilities in defending “pro-life laws passed by our general assembly."

But progressives and Democrats say Meredith's nomination would be a grave mistake, particularly in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling striking down Roe v. Wade.

“In the midst of a national public health crisis on abortion rights, the last thing we need is another anti-abortion judge interfering in our personal health care decisions,” said Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who has been outspoken about her own abortion at 17 years old after being raped.

“I’m urging President Biden: please don’t do this.”

USA TODAY reporter Joey Garrison contributed to this story.

Mike Trautmann: 502-582-7081; mtrautmann@gannett.com; Twitter: @CJNewsDirector. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/subscribe.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Who is Chad Meredith, Biden's anti-abortion pick for Kentucky judge?