WASHINGTON — Joel Carson, a Roswell energy lawyer and part-time magistrate judge, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench as a member of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Carson is slated to replace Paul J. Kelly Jr., who will assume a more limited, senior status on the court.
Carson, 46, is a principal at Carson Ryan LLC, a law firm specializing in oil and gas law, regulatory issues, litigation and appellate cases. He has also served as a part-time magistrate judge since 2015.
Although Carson’s nomination was not without opposition — he was approved 77-21 — it proved less divisive than some of President Donald Trump’s other nominations to the federal bench.
“Judge Carson has a distinguished tenure as a U.S. magistrate judge,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in announcing the Tuesday vote on Carson. “His peers say his integrity, fairness and respect for the dignity of others are top-notch, and a bipartisan group of New Mexico lawyers have expressed confidence he’ll be an excellent addition to the 10th Circuit.”
Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both D-N.M., voted for Carson’s nomination.
“I believe that Joel will bring New Mexico values — integrity, compassion and respect for those with opposing viewpoints — to the federal bench,” Udall said after the vote “These values will serve him, and New Mexico, well on the circuit court.”
Heinrich, who had been noncommittal about Carson’s nomination for months before Tuesday’s vote, did not provide any public statement on Carson’s confirmation.
Some Democrats and liberal groups had been skeptical of Carson’s professional background representing energy companies.
“Joel personifies the traits of an effective and honorable judge—humility, intelligence, patience, and common sense,” said Christopher Lauderman, an attorney at Carson Ryan, in a statement to the Journal. “Joel’s broad exposure to all areas of civil litigation combined with his experience as a United States magistrate judge gives us great confidence that he will make an outstanding circuit judge.”
Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who tracks the judicial nomination process closely, noted that most Western senators backed Carson.
“I look for the expertise someone brings, and he certainly brings oil and gas, public lands and environmental experience and you need that on the 10th Circuit,” Tobias said. “I expect him to be balanced.”