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Brian Buescher

The U.S. Senate made a sound decision on Wednesday in confirming Omaha attorney Brian Buescher to serve as Nebraska’s next federal judge. He has demonstrated the needed competence and temperament for conscientious service.

Buescher has shown impressive leadership, management skill and legal expertise as head of the agribusiness litigation division at Omaha-based Kutak Rock. The American Bar Association has judged him “qualified” for service on the U.S. District Court for Nebraska. He deserved stronger support than the 51-40 vote on Wednesday.

Senators’ arguments against the nomination fell well short. During his confirmation before the Senate Judiciary Committee, it was troubling that some senators expressed concern about Buescher’s membership in the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization. The organization holds traditionalist positions on abortion and same-sex marriage with which the senators disagree. Buescher rightly stressed that a judge is obligated to follow the law, regardless of his personal political views. That’s a central principle for conservative and liberal jurists alike.

Asked about the Roe v. Wade decision, Buescher responded, “It is a landmark decision that I will abide by. As a district court judge in Nebraska, that is my role and that is my obligation.” Exactly so. Only the U.S. Supreme Court can overrule court precedent.

Debate over the Buescher nomination showed that senators should beware of impugning a nominee’s moral judgment based on the individual’s religious affiliation. The U.S. Constitution states unequivocally that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

After the committee hearing on Buescher, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska introduced a resolution that the Senate not consider religious affiliation in deciding on judicial nominees. No lawmaker dared vote against it; it passed unanimously.

In confirming Buescher, the Senate has approved a capable Nebraskan who should contribute well to the federal bench.

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