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Kristin Murphy, KSL

BYU grad tells U.S. Senate panel he would impartially apply law if confirmed as federal judge

By Dennis Romboy, KSL | Posted - Jul. 17, 2019 at 3:03 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — David B. Barlow appeared to leave a favorable impression on the few senators who quizzed him Wednesday during his nomination hearing to become a federal judge.

The former U.S. attorney for Utah didn't face any hard-hitting questions from two Republican and two Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 30-minute hearing that included two other judicial nominees.

Barlow told the committee that if confirmed as a U.S. District Court judge in Salt Lake City that he would fairly, faithfully and fully see that laws Congress passes are impartially applied.

"I do not believe it is the role of a district court judge, and it certainly would not be my practice, to inject my own personal policy preferences or views into the law," he said.

Utah GOP Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney introduced Barlow to the committee, which will vote next week on whether to advance his name to the full Senate for confirmation.

Lee met Barlow in 1988 at Boys Nation when they were in high school, and they continued as friends through college at Brigham Young University.

After law school — Barlow graduated from Yale — they both joined the highly regarded Chicago law firm Sidley Austin, the same firm where Michelle and Barack Obama worked and met. Barlow later served as chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee for Lee.

Lee said he has never seen Barlow treat anyone with disrespect and that he takes on every task with professionalism.

"He makes everyone around him want to be better," Lee said.

Romney described Barlow as a man of "profound faith" who is a dutiful husband and exemplary father of four children. He said Barlow's intellect and character convinced him that he would serve with honor and integrity.

"I have full confidence that David will apply the law in our Constitution to all matters and parties that come before him," Romney said.

With his nomination by President Donald Trump in May, Barlow has the distinction of being nominated by both a Republican and a Democratic president. President Barack Obama appointed Barlow as Utah's U.S. attorney in 2011. He held that job until 2014.

Barlow is a partner in the Salt Lake City office of Dorsey & Whitney, where his law practice focuses on representing companies in civil litigation and white-collar investigations. He was a vice president for Walmart’s health and wellness businesses, including more than 8,000 pharmacies, optical centers and medical clinics throughout the country.

Asked to describe his judicial philosophy, Barlow said he has not worked in the judiciary and that he's not inclined to label himself, but explained how he would approach the law.

"If the text is plain and unambiguous, it's to be applied as written," he said. "Similarly, if a superior court has issued binding precedent, if the Supreme Court has already decided a matter that was previously ambiguous … then that's the end of the inquiry."

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked Barlow how he would deal with race in the justice system.

Barlow said it's critical the police and courts treat everyone fairly. He said as U.S. attorney he vigorously enforced discrimination laws and was recognized by the NAACP at the end of his tenure.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said judges don't come with blank slates void of life experiences, and asked Barlow if he acknowledges the existence of "implicit bias."

"Bias is, in fact, part of the human condition and some of them can be implicit. They can be hard to to detect in the individuals that have them," he said.

Barlow said he would be open to training to that helps judges identify their biases.

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