WASHINGTON, DC – The American Bar Association (ABA) rated Judge Brett Kavanaugh “well qualified” for the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, the highest rating possible from the organization that Senate Democrats call the “gold standard” for nominees, boosting the prospects for President Donald Trump’s second nominee to the nation’s highest court.
Although many everyday Americans assume the ABA is an official body for the legal profession, it is actually a private organization to which less than 35 percent of the nation’s 1.3 million lawyers belong. However, most states require a person to graduate from an ABA-accredited law school as a precondition for taking that state’s bar exam to obtain a license to become a lawyer, making it a gatekeeper to becoming a practicing attorney.
Moreover, the ABA is a large and powerful organization, the opinion of which carries significant weight in legal circles. But the ABA is also a leftwing organization, frequently taking the liberal side on issues ranging from the Second Amendment, to the LGBT agenda, to national sovereignty, to immigration.
That being so, conservatives are often concerned about the outsized role that the ABA plays in rating judicial nominees. For many decades, the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has issued evaluations on nominations for federal judgeships, giving each nominee a rating of “not qualified,” “qualified,” or “well qualified.”
For modern Democratic presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the ABA would be consulted prior to the president’s announcing his choice, and candidates disfavored by the ABA were generally never nominated at all. Modern Republican presidents have not sought the ABA’s prior approval, but many senators give significant weight to the ABA’s rating anyway during the confirmation process.
In fact, liberal senators like Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have declared that ABA ratings are “the gold standard by which judicial candidates are judged.”
Conservative nominees sometimes receive lower ratings than their records would indicate. For example, the ABA in 2017 pronounced that Leonard Steven Grasz was not qualified for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Conservatives cheered when the Senate confirmed President Trump’s nominee anyway.
For each level of the judiciary, the ABA’s standards are more demanding. Appellate judges are examined more strictly than trial judges, and Supreme Court justices most strictly of all. The ABA’s committee examines a judge’s writings, education, experience, other activities, and interviews each nominee in person.
On Friday, the ABA declared that Kavanaugh – who is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit – is “well qualified” for the Supreme Court. That is the highest rating the ABA can give. The vote was unanimous.
No reaction yet on whether Schumer or Leahy will reverse their already-announced decisions to oppose Kavanaugh, now that the “gold standard” organization has declared with a unanimous voice that Kavanaugh is as qualified as they come for the Supreme Court.
The Senate will hold hearings on Kavanaugh’s nomination September 4 through 7.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.