Speed Reads

As Tears Go By

Trump appellate court nominee cries over brutal American Bar Association 'not qualified' letter

Judicial nominee Lawrence VanDyke

The Senate has confirmed 157 of President Trump's judicial nominees, putting him roughly on par with former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton at similar points in their presidencies. But Trump's prioritization of appellate court judges "sets him apart from his predecessors," The New York Times reports. If the Senate confirms a batch of pending nominees, Trump will have appointed "a quarter of the nation's 179 appeals court judges — those sitting just below the Supreme Court."

The Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on two nominees to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday — Patrick Bumatay and Jonathan VanDyke. The American Bar Association scorched VanDyke in a letter Tuesday night, finding him "not qualified" after interviewing 60 lawyers, judges, and other people he has worked with. VanDyke has the requisite résumé, the ABA wrote, but his his colleagues judged him "arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to-day practice including procedural rules. There was a theme that the nominee lacks humility, has an 'entitlement' temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful."

It was when Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked VanDyke about the ABA's report that he "would not say affirmatively that he would be fair to any litigant before him, notably members of the LGBTQ community," that VanDyke broke down in tears. "I do not believe that," he said. "It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God" and "should all be treated with dignity and respect."

Democrats called the ABA's letter on VanDyke very troubling and Republicans accused the organization of bias against conservative nominees. The ABA said its independent judicial evaluation committee considers a nominee's temperament, integrity, and experience, and ideology is not a factor. The Senate has already confirmed five judges the ABA has rated "not qualified" while two others withdrew their names from consideration. The ABA points out it has rated 97 percent of Trump's 264 nominees "qualified" or "very qualified."