Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley say they no longer believe Hermiston graduate Ryan Bounds is a “suitable nominee” for the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after reading a collection of opinion pieces he wrote during college, including one criticizing multicultural student groups that “divide up by race for their feel-good ethnic hoedowns” and foster “race-think.”
Bounds, a Hermiston High School graduate and an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon, was chosen by a bipartisan committee of attorneys appointed by Wyden, Merkley and Rep. Greg Walden as one of four finalists for a judicial vacancy on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Any judge seated on the court will have to go through a confirmation hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
However, Wyden and Merkley issued a joint statement Monday saying that after the committee named Bounds they learned that he had “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.”
“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,” they stated.
Walden’s office issued a statement that although Bounds had not been required to provide “college kid columns” to the review commission, he had provided the columns to the Senate Judiciary Committee and “has fully denounced them.”
“Ryan Bounds is a talented and effective prosecutor who should be judged on his adult record of working to make Oregon safer by holding lawbreakers accountable and by his unblemished record of public service, including chairing the bar committee on diversity and inclusion,” Walden said.
Bounds, according to The Oregonian/Oregonlive, apologized to the Multnomah Bar Association’s equity, diversity and inclusion committee — of which he is chair — in an email stating that “the objectionable words and views recited from three or four of my college opeds do not reflect the views I have hewn to as a lawyer and, frankly, as a grown-up.”
In the email Bounds, now 44, called the words he wrote years ago as a Stanford University student “tone-deaf” and “mortifyingly insensitive.” He did not return a message from the East Oregonian by press time.
The op-eds came to light through a report by the liberal advocacy group Alliance for Justice opposing the nomination of Bounds, who is considered politically conservative.
Many of the quotes highlighted in the report came from a piece in the student-run Stanford Review titled “Race-Think: A Stanford Phenomenon?” The op-ed describes the characteristics of group-think — including rationalizing a group’s actions, stereotyping the group’s opponents and pressuring dissenting members to conform — and criticizes the “Multiculturalistas” on campus for similar “race-think” and for seeing themselves as “universally and unbearably persecuted.”
“Race-focused groups foster race-think, and the only way to rid our multicultural community of race-think is to rid it of these invidious factions,” he wrote in 1995. “We should be cheered, however, to know that our task is not impossible. 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.”
Alliance for Justice also criticized Bounds’ views on campus sexual assault from an opinion piece Bounds wrote for the Stanford Review during his time as an opinion editor titled “Reasonable Doubts?” The piece argues that universities should not expel or otherwise punish students accused of sexual assault unless their guilt can be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“Expelling students is probably not going to contribute a great deal toward a rape victim’s recovery; there is no moral imperative to risk egregious error in doing so,” he wrote in 1994.
Alliance for Justice also cited pieces in which Bounds criticized students protesting a union-busting hotel and mocked the idea of “sensitivity” after a group of intoxicated athletes vandalized a statue celebrating gay pride.
Before the Alliance for Justice report came out, a bipartisan review committee from Oregon ranked Bounds as one of four top judicial candidates for Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. The other three were Medford trial attorney Kelly Andersen, Portland appellate attorney Thomas Christ and Assistant U.S. Attorney Renata Gowie.
Bounds was born in Umatilla and grew up in Hermiston before graduating from Stanford and then Yale. He spent time in commercial law in Portland, was a federal prosecutor for the District of Columbia, served as an assistant to the President on domestic policy and is currently an assistant U.S. attorney.
His sister Lorissa Bounds is Walden’s chief of staff.
When he was tapped for nomination, 15 Oregon senators including Bill Hansell sent Merkley and Wyden letters of support on behalf of Bounds, along with the Oregon Criminal Defense Bar, the Oregon Wheat Growers League, Hermiston Mayor David Droztmann and Pendleton Mayor John Turner.
This is Bounds’ second nomination to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The first time Wyden and Merkley refused to turn in the “blue slip” that senators customarily turn into the Senate giving their OK for the nomination process to begin.