Speaking of Obama appointments, I have been sharply critical of the president’s judicial nominees, especially his two selections for the U.S. Supreme Court, Justices Sotomayor and Kagan.
We opposed Justice Sonya Sotomayor’s confirmation. And as I wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee opposing the Kagan nomination, the former Obama Solicitor General was “a liberal activist and political operative with no experience as a judge.”
But now, according to a shocking story in The New York Times, sharp criticism of the president’s judicial nominees is coming from a very unlikely place — the ultra leftist American Bar Association (ABA). This story appeared just before Christmas, so the liberal media had a convenient excuse to ignore it. Apparently, the ABA has been quietly rejecting an unprecedented number of Obama’s judicial nominees because they are “not qualified.”
The American Bar Association has secretly declared a significant number of President Obama’s potential judicial nominees “not qualified,” slowing White House efforts to fill vacant judgeships — and nearly all of the prospects given poor ratings were women or members of a minority group, according to interviews.
The White House has chosen not to nominate any person the bar association deemed unqualified, so their identities and negative ratings have not been made public. But the association’s judicial vetting committee has opposed 14 of the roughly 185 potential nominees the administration asked it to evaluate, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The ABA rejected two other women/minority candidates as “not qualified,” but upgraded them after the White House complained. The New York Times reports that Obama’s legal team has “met several times” with the ABA Chairman to “raise concerns.” (To read: Bully the ABA to lower its standards.)
So how does Obama’s “success” rate fare when compared to the last two presidential administrations?
The number of Obama prospects deemed “not qualified” already exceeds the total number opposed by the group during the eight-year administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; the rejection rate is more than three and a half times as high as it was under either of the previous two presidencies, documents and interviews show.
But this is the real kicker. The Obama administration is reportedly “perplexed” by the sky-high number of rejected nominees. White House officials complain that the panelists reviewing the President’s nominees are “placing too much value on courtroom experience at the expense of lawyers who pursued career paths less likely to involve trials, like government lawyers and law professors.”
Because who wants a Supreme Court Justice with practical experience in the courtroom when you can get a nominee with a proven track record grading term papers and teaching students to cast aside the rule of law in favor of “empathy”?
According to ABA guidelines, “In evaluating the professional qualifications of a prospective nominee, the Committee recognizes that substantial courtroom and trial experience as a lawyer or trial judge is important.” Now the ABA does note that it will consider other forms of experience, such as teaching or serving on administrative agencies. And it “may” consider “whether opportunities for advancement in the profession for women and members of minority groups were limited.” But even the liberal ABA’s patronizing effort to help lower standards to help politically-correct groups onto the courts couldn’t help the low quality Obama nominees.
While alarming, this story is not surprising. After all, Obama has tried appointing to the federal bench a number of leftist ideologues with no legal experience such as Goodwin Liu, the California law school professor who suspiciously concealed more than 100 of his most controversial speeches, publications and other background materials from the U.S. Senate committee that screens judicial candidates. After failing to earn Senate confirmation for a federal appeals court seat, Liu landed a spot on California’s Supreme Court which only requires state approval.
The ABA deserves some credit for rejecting the Obama administration’s “affirmative action” judicial confirmation scheme, which places a greater emphasis on “diversity” than it does on experience and competence. Let’s hope the ABA does not bend to the considerable pressure being brought to bear by White House lawyers who would prefer the association simply rubber stamp Obama’s unqualified nominees without question.
And this should warn us that the ABA is not perfect – it won’t catch all the unqualified nominees (e.g., then-Solicitor General Elena Kagan). Conservatives and others concerned about a competent and constitutionalist judiciary must monitor carefully the president’s judicial nominations. In that regard, you can count on Judicial Watch to help stand watch.