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McConnell Has Made It A Mission To Reshape The Bench. But A Federal Judge Has Questions.

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

A federal judge is calling for a probe into whether Sen. Mitch McConnell pressed a federal judge to retire, opening up a seat for a conservative protege once rated "not qualified" by the American Bar Association.

The controversy revolves around Justin Walker, a 37-year-old Kentucky judge elevated to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, and now nominated for the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Progressive watchdog group Demand Justice has said Walker's nomination should not go forward until "we know the truth about what ethical lines Mitch McConnell crossed to get Walker his seat." Now, the chief justice of the DC Appeals Court to which Walker is nominated, Judge Sri Srinivasan, is asking for the matter to be assigned to another court.

"Nothing is known about whether or how Majority Leader McConnell might be attempting to further incentivize these judges,” the Demand Justice complaint reads.

Judge Thomas Griffith retired last March amid reports that the senator had been urging older, Republican-appointed judges to step down to make way for new, younger Trump nominees. While the Washington Examiner reports there's "no clear evidence" that McConnell spoke to or pressured Griffith ahead of his retirement, McConnell has long advertised his efforts to revamp the federal judiciary.

The senator told a Trump campaign rally in Lexington last year, "Working together, we're changing the federal courts forever. Nobody has done more to change the court system in the history of our country than Donald Trump."

It's been a top priority that's yielded results during the senator's current tenure as Senate Majority Leader.

"I think lifetime appointments, not only to the Supreme Court but to the circuit courts, are the way you have the longest lasting impact on the country,” McConnell has said. “The president and his team have sent up, in my view, excellent judges, and we’ve had the unity we’ve needed… to get them confirmed.”

A spokesperson for McConnell’s office told The Hill that the senator “looks forward to watching Judge Walker’s confirmation hearing this week.”

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.