One of Trump’s nominees to a lifetime seat on a U.S. district court struggled to answer the most basic questions about the law during his Senate confirmation hearing this week.
Republican Senator John Kennedy asked Matthew Spencer Petersen, a nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia a few questions. I’m not a lawyer and don’t know the answers either, but I’m not being tested for a lifetime position on the court.
But apparently, if you’ve ever watched Law & Order, you know about as much about the law as this guy does.
KENNEDY: Have you ever tried a jury trial?
PETERSEN: I have not.
KENNEDY: State or federal court?
PETERSEN: I have not.
That’s pretty bad. But it gets worse…
KENNEDY: As a trial judge, you’re obviously going to have witnesses. Can you tell me what the Daubert standard is?
PETERSEN: Sen. Kennedy, I don’t have that readily at my disposal but I would be happy to take a closer look at that. That is not something I’ve had to contend with.
KENNEDY: Do you know what a motion in limine is?
PETERSEN: Yes… I haven’t, I’m, again, my background is not in litigation as when I was replying to Chairman (Chuck) Grassley, I haven’t had to um, again, do a deep dive.
Petersen then began ticking off his experience as the current head of the Federal Elections Commission “in a decision-making role”. Kennedy interrupted him:
KENNEDY: Yes, I’ve read your resume. Just for the record, do you know what a motion in limine is?
PETERSEN: I would probably not be able to give you a good definition right here at the table.
KENNEDY: Do you know what the Younger abstention doctrine is?
PETERSEN: Um, I’ve heard of it… but I, again.
KENNEDY: How about the Pullman abstention doctrine?
PETERSEN: I… I heard…
KENNEDY: Y’all see that a lot in federal court…
A number of Trump’s judicial nominees have been “unfit” (to say the least) to serve on the federal bench. Four of his court picks have been rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association ― an embarrassingly high number to receive that rating. One of them, district court court nominee Brett Talley, withdrew his nomination this week.
Trump is nominating judges at a breakneck pace without taking the time to thoroughly vet their backgrounds. But is that any big surprise given the fact that he’s never served elected public office, has no idea how the government is run (and apparently could care even less.)
Needless to say there are “problems” in their confirmation process, as senators discover more details about their dubious backgrounds. Trump’s court picks are mostly being funneled to him by the The Federalist Society, a right-wing legal organization focused on filling up courts with ultra-conservative judges.
Kennedy is one of few Republicans critical of Trump’s judicial nominees. He’s saying the POTUS is
“getting some very, very bad advice.”
From some VERY bad people. Again, BIG surprise. This would be funny, if this were not so sad and a judge might affect people’s lives long after Trump is gone.
In other words, PERMANENT DAMAGE.
— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) December 15, 2017
(Photo: YouTube; via Huffington Post)