One of the most important responsibilities of a president is the nomination of federal judges, ranging from district court judges to Supreme Court justices. They serve for life once approved by the U.S. Senate, and therefore, they continue having a lasting impact on public policy long after a president’s term has ended.
Irrespective of political affiliations, almost all judicial nominees are highly qualified, meaning they have demonstrated a knowledge of the law, temperament, and impartiality, all necessary in meting out justice. Despite President Trump’s boast that he was nominating only the best and most qualified candidates, he is failing miserably.
Exhibit A: Lawyer Matthew Peterson was nominated for a federal judgeship for a Washington D.C. district court. Two weeks ago, Peterson appeared before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and when questioned by Sen. John Kennedy, Republican from Louisiana, Peterson admitted he’d never tried a case before a federal or state court jury, never tried a case before a federal or state court judge, never argued any sort of pretrial motions in a federal or state court, and had never taken any deposition (an out of court pretrial questioning of a witness under oath). Much to the dismay of Sen. Kennedy, Peterson was also unfamiliar with several established legal doctrines that most third year law students would know. Fortunately, after his disastrous public hearing, Peterson withdrew his name from consideration before the Judiciary Committee put his nomination to the vote.
Exhibit B: Brett Talley was nominated for an Alabama federal district court judgeship. The American Bar Association rated Talley as “unanimously unqualified.” Here’s why. Like Peterson, Talley has never tried a case despite being a lawyer since 2007. In 2011, Talley posted in a University of Alabama online fan message board a vigorous defense of the early KKK. Imagine being a minority, Muslim, or Jewish defendant or litigant in a court where the judge is a big fan of the historical KKK. And when asked by the Senate to list professional organizations to which he belonged, Talley proudly listed the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group. Fortunately, for America, his nomination was also recently withdrawn, so now Talley can go back to doing what he really enjoys, being a real life Ghostbuster.
Exhibit C: Jeff Mateer was nominated for an East Texas federal court judgeship. His nomination collapsed after it was disclosed that he believed transgendered children were evidence of “Satan’s plan.” He has argued that legalized gay marriage would lead to “bestiality.” Mateer has also been a strong supporter of “conversion therapy,” the junk science that homosexuals can be converted into heterosexuals with intensive therapy. The American Psychiatric Association and the American Pediatric Association have deemed conversion therapy to be “mentally harmful.”
Federal courts aren’t the place for rigid Taliban style religious ideologues. And, federal courts aren’t the place for on the job training, or as Sen. Kennedy eloquently told a New Orleans TV station, “just because you’ve seen ‘My Cousin Vinny’ doesn’t qualify you to be a federal judge.”