The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved Trump’s nominee for a lifetime federal district judgeship. The move has stirred quite some controversy. It has emerged that the 36-year-old lawyer has never tried a case before. The American Bar Association also unanimously deemed Brett Talley as “Not qualified” for the job. He is the third judicial nominee to receive a unanimous “Not qualified” rating by the American Bar Association since 1989. The lawyer is also the fourth nominee under the Trump administration to get the same rating from the Bar Association.
Talley graduated from Harvard Law School in 2007 and before the nomination he was a deputy assistant attorney general. The Senate Judiciary Service committee voted on party lines for Telley. Republicans who outnumber Democrats 11 to 9 had their way. The 36-year-old lawyer will now wait for a full Senate vote. If confirmed, Telly will become a trial judge in Alabama, his home state.
President Trump has put efforts in place to try and reshape the judiciary in the US. The nomination of Brett Telly has been termed as a clear example of the president’s trend of packing courts around the country with younger and more conservative judges. Democratic members sitting at the Senate Judiciary Committee raised a number of key questions regarding the Telly’s qualifications, including the clear lack of experience.
However, Republican senators on the committee led by Charles E. Grassley defended the young conservative lawyer. Senator Grassley who chairs the committee said that Telly has a wide breadth of legal experience that had exposed him to various applications of the federal law.
The Senator also dismissed the rating by the American Bar Association. He said that Senators have the ability to decide for themselves who is qualified for judgeships and who isn’t. The Iowa Senator recalled situations in the past where judicial nominees had been unanimously approved by the committee even after the American Bar Association had rated them as “Not qualified.”
It’s not the first time that judicial nominees are facing scrutiny due to lack of trial experience. In 2012, Jeff Sessions, the current attorney general, raised questions about the lack of trial experience on a judicial nominee by former president Barack Obama. Sessions at the time sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee as a Senator from Alabama.
The role of the American Bar Association in screening judicial nominees seems to have been reduced or ignored under the Trump administration. Every president in the US since Dwight Eisenhower has screened potential judicial nominees with the American Bar Association before announcing them publicly. Only George W. Bush did things differently and it seems that Trump is also following the same path.
It’s not abnormal to have judicial nominees get a “Not qualified” rating from the Bar. However, the fact that many of Trump’s nominees have received that rating is a cause for concern. Nonetheless, the Senate Judiciary Committee has ignored the ratings too. Four other nominees for federal judgeships were also approved on Thursday.