36-year-old lawyer who never tried a case and who was unanimously deemed "unqualified" by the American Bar Association was approved for a life of federal district judge by the Judiciary Committee of the Senate.
The lawyer, Brett Talley, is the fourth judicial nominee under President Trump to receive an "unskilled" rating from the bar association and the second to receive the rating at the # 39; unanimously. Since 1989, the association has unanimously ranked two other unskilled candidates.
Senate committee votes Thursday to approve Mr. Talley, a graduate of Harvard Law School in 2007 and deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice, fell along party lines; Republican members outnumbered Democrats on committee 11 to nine. Mr. Talley will now face a full Senate hearing. If he was confirmed, he would serve as a trial judge in his state of Alabama
. Mr. Talley's appointment is only one of the latest examples of Mr. Trump's efforts to reshape the nation's courts, placing them with young, deeply conservative judges
. Talley's lack of experience has raised burning questions from the Democratic members of the committee. Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the minority whip, asked Mr. Talley in a written questionnaire: "Do you think it's wise to place people with no experience?" in the Federal Court? "
Mr. Talley defended himself. "It would be inappropriate for me as a candidate to comment on the opportunity of an appointment," he writes.
Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, a member of the committee, asked if Mr. Talley had ever argued a motion in federal court, since he had never tried a case. He did not do it.
Ms. Feinstein also pointed to Mr. Talley's prolific social media presence prior to his appointment. He once called Hillary Clinton as "Hillary Rotten Clinton" on his public Twitter account, which is now private.
In 2013, he wrote on his blog that the armed revolution was an important defense against the tyrannical government. Ms. Feinstein asked in her written questions when Mr. Talley believed that it would become appropriate for US citizens to participate in an armed uprising against the government.
He replied that he did not believe any situation in American history – with the "possible exception" of slavery – had called for armed rebellion.
At the committee's vote on Thursday, Ms. Feinstein raised the biggest problem with Mr. Talley's views on gun control. In 2013, about a month after an armed man killed 20 children in a primary school in Newtown, Connecticut, Mr. Talley promised on his blog his full support for the National Rifle Association "financially, politically and intellectually" .
Ms. Feinstein said that she had asked Mr. Talley if, if confirmed, he would pledge to recuse himself in cases involving weapons. He refused
"I find this unacceptable," she said
Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the committee, defended the Mr. Talley's qualifications. "Mr. Talley has extensive and varied legal experience that has helped him to become familiar with various aspects of federal legislation and the problems that will arise," he said in a statement
. Grassley also questioned the importance of the bar association's rating. "Senators can decide for themselves whether the ABA measure of what qualifies a candidate is appropriate in these cases," he said
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, commended the practice of evaluating candidates for the judiciary as an important means of distinguishing between people who simply had political connections and those who had belonged to the judiciary.
Mr. Grassley also noted that other justice candidates rated "unskilled" had been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, sometimes unanimously.
Other candidates were screened for their lack of trial experience. In 2010, Jeff Sessions, then Senator from Alabama, asked Nancy Freudenthal, who had been appointed to the Wyoming District Court by President Barack Obama, that she had never ruled a case before a jury. Mrs. Freudenthal was finally approved by the Senate, 96 to 1.
In addition, the comparative scarcity of "unskilled" ratings for candidates for judicial positions under previous administrations may be due, at least in part , to a difference in procedure. All presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower, with the exception of George W. Bush, have screened potential candidates at the American Bar Association before announcing them publicly – a tradition that the administration Trump has decided to reject.
Kristine Lucius, Executive Vice President for Policy at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of civil rights and labor groups, does not consider the number of unskilled candidates under Mr. Trump
It's unprecedented to have so much, quickly, in such a short period of time, "she said.Mr Talley, she added," When you think of the power of a district court candidate on life and death decisions every day, it's really irresponsible to put someone with that little experience. "
The committee also approved Thursday four other candidates for federal judges, including Holly Lou Teeter, who also received an "unskilled"
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