Wyoming is arguably the nation's most Republican state. Former President Donald Trump won his highest state percentage there, beating President Joe Biden 70% to 27%. Both of Wyoming's senators and its lone House members are Republican. So is the governor, and the GOP dominates the Legislature.

But there's one realm in which Democratic presidents, at least by extension, have continued to leave their mark in the Equality State: federal judgeships. Through a quirk of timing and conveniently timed retirements when Democrats have held the White House, no Republican has nominated a federal judge for Wyoming since 1985. That year, President Ronald Reagan nominated and the Senate confirmed U.S. District Court Judge Alan Bond Johnson, who is still in that position.

The Republican-appointee federal judge drought is now set to continue. Biden's administration is in a position to nominate a judge to replace U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal for the District of Wyoming. Freudenthal, the wife of former Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal, announced in June she would assume senior status, opening a spot on the three-person district panel when she moves on from her present semiretirement stage in June 2022.

While Democrats in the state have not named a nominee for the Biden administration to review, Wyoming Democratic Party Communications Director Nina Hebert told the Washington Examiner that a committee has been established to interview options for the president's consideration.

"The committee is finalizing its recommendations to Chair [Joseph] Barbuto now," Herbert said. "And once Chair Barbuto receives those recommendations, he will select one or more of our recommendations from there to send those on to President Biden."


Freudenthal's decision to enter senior status will open the door for a new federal district court nomination in Wyoming for the first time since former President Barack Obama appointed her and Chief Justice Scott Skavdahl nearly a decade ago. The judge was recommended by her spouse, who was in the governorship from 2003 to 2011.

While Democrats hold little power in the state governed by Republican Gov. Mark Gordon, the decision comes down to Biden's selection and a U.S. Senate vote for confirmation. With the 50-50 split in the Senate, the president's party has raced to confirm 40 federal court nominees as of Dec. 20. That rivals the pace of Trump, who got 22 federal judges confirmed by a similar point in his first year and went on to confirm 226 during his single term in office.

Republicans in Wyoming have remained quiet about a recommendation offering to the White House. While most judicial nominees have not been contentious in the state's history, several GOP-led states, including Tennessee and Idaho, have spoken out in recent time about the president's judicial nominees, hoping to have their preference weighed by Biden.

In November, Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch sent a letter to the Biden administration requesting to convene about the state's federal district judge vacancy, arguing it "cannot be filled" without a "mutual agreement" and argued in favor of observing the "blue slip" procedure.

During the Trump administration, then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley ended the tradition of honoring the “blue slip” rule for circuit judges, a nonlegal procedure of patronage in which if a senator didn’t signal support of a nominee by returning a blue slip document, that nominee typically would not advance.

"It's not as if there's some legally binding rule called the 'blue slip.' It's very much an iffy thing that goes up and down," Russell Wheeler, a governance studies expert with the Brookings Institution, told the Washington Examiner.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has in rare instances allowed states with Republican senators to have some say in the process of nominating a judge to a vacant seat.

"What's it going to be under Biden? It's hard to say because on the Court of Appeals, he's only nominated one person to a seat traditionally assigned to a Republican senator's state, that's Tennessee, and also four to district courts in states with Republican senators, three in Ohio and one in Wisconsin," Wheeler said.

Hebert said it is Biden's "intention" to have a nominee who has the support of the congressional delegation in Wyoming.

"[Biden] spent a long time in the Senate and likes to attempt to work across the aisle," Hebert said. "Whether our delegation chooses to support his eventual nominee is kind of anybody's guess."


The Washington Examiner contacted Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne and Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis but did not receive responses.