When Ryan Bounds was an undergrad at Stanford, he wrote critically about some aspects of multiculturalism, LGBTQ activism and the standards used to judge sexual assault on campus.

Now a 41-year-old assistant U.S. attorney in Portland, Bounds is one of four finalists to fill a vacancy on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, chosen by a bipartisan Oregon judicial selection committee, as detailed by Maxine Bernstein in The Oregonian on Monday.

Despite Bounds’ recent apology for what he called “misguided sentiments” in his college writings, Oregon’s U.S. senators are opposing his candidacy for the appeals court, saying his college writings “reveal archaic and alarming views about sexual assault, the rights of workers, people of color and the LGBTQ community.”

Bounds’ rambling college observations do include the kind of sarcasm and aggressive self-confidence to be expected among undergrads, but there’s nothing “alarming.” There’s no racism or homophobia or sexism in the segments chosen for criticism by the liberal judicial group Alliance for Justice.

Perhaps what’s truly disturbing for Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley is the conservative mindset the writings reveal. The senators apparently assume that a person who once expressed such views can never be trusted. There’s no room in their judgment for a student growing up and developing the more complex and reasoned discourse of a mature thinker.

How would you like to be judged based on your college writings?

Wyden, Merkley and Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Walden appointed the lawyers to the committee that named Bounds a finalist. Candidates were ranked and those with the highest scores were interviewed. The other three finalists are Kelly Anderson, a Medford trial attorney; Thomas Christ, a Portland appellate attorney; and Renata Gowie, an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon.

The Democratic senators say they will express their concerns about Bounds to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Those concerns are misplaced on two levels: 1) The writings don’t match the description being attached to them; and 2) More recent conduct and writings are a better gauge than college rants from the 1990s.

We urge the judiciary committee to recognize the true partisan underpinning of the Wyden/Merkley critique and not let it color their judgment.

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