Sen. John Kennedy’s Basic Constitutional Question Stumps Biden Judicial Nominee

Anna Rose Layden/Pool Photo via AP

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) stumped one of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees when he asked basic questions about the U.S. Constitution that left her seemingly unable to answer.

Biden nominated Spokane County Superior Court Judge Charnelle Bjelkengren to serve as the U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Washington.

During Bjelkengren’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kennedy asked two basic questions about the U.S. Constitution and one about statutory interpretation.

“Tell me what Article V of the Constitution does,” Kennedy asked Bjelkengren.

“Article V is not coming to mind at the moment,” she responded.

“How about Article II?” Kennedy asked.

“Neither is Article II,” Bjelkengren said, leaving Kennedy scratching his head.

Senate Judiciary Committee

Article V of the U.S. Constitution outlines the process for amending the Constitution, while Article II outlines the executive powers vested in the president of the United States.

Kennedy again left the Gonzaga University School of Law graduate stumped when he asked her to define “purposivism,” which is a form of statutory interpretation that “maintains that the legal effect of a statute should be determined by the objective purpose of the statute,” according to Legal Theory Blog.

“In my 12 years as an assistant attorney general, in my nine years as a judge, I was not faced with that precise question,” Bjelkengren told Kennedy. “We are the highest trial court in Washington state, so I’m frequently faced with issues that I’m not familiar with, and I thoroughly review the law, I research, and apply the law to the facts presented to me.”

After graduating from Gonzaga University School of Law in 2000, Bjelkengren served as an assistant attorney general for the Washington Attorney General’s Office. In 2013, Bjelkengren became an administrative judge in Washington State before Gov. Jay Inslee (D) appointed her to the Spoke County Superior Court in 2019.

Speaking with NBC News after the hearing, Kennedy said, “Some of these nominees that have been forced in the last two years have no business being anywhere near a federal bench — they don’t have any business being anywhere near a park bench.”

“I don’t ask the nominees, ‘Do you support this precedent or you support that precedent?’ I asked them to tell me about the law, tell me what the Constitution says, tell me about the relationship between the federal judiciary and our administrative agencies,” Kennedy added. “These are all very basic questions.”

Kennedy previously grilled former President Donald Trump’s judicial nominee, Matthew Petersen, on basic legal questions, which ultimately resulted in Petersen withdrawing his name from consideration after a video of the exchange went viral online.

However, with Democrats in majority control of the Senate, Bjelkengren can advance to a vote before the entire Senate if all Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee approve her. Then she would need all 50 Democrats to vote in her favor before she can join the federal judiciary.

Jordan Dixon-Hamilton is a reporter for Breitbart News. Write to him at or follow him on Twitter.


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