The White House may soon advise President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees not to cooperate with the American Bar Association’s independent vetting process, further weakening the dominant role the interest group has played for decades in judicial confirmations.
A source involved in the administration’s confirmation operation told The New York Times that the White House may instruct future judicial nominees not to interview with the ABA’s standing committee on the federal judiciary, or give the panel access to confidential disciplinary records.
Though the practice is not formally part of the confirmation process, the ABA has vetted federal judicial nominees since the Eisenhower administration, providing the Senate with reports grading each nominee on a spectrum from “unqualified” to “well qualified.” President George W. Bush ended the practice during his administration, though the ABA’s role was restored by President Barack Obama.
The ABA has rated four of Trump’s district court nominees “unqualified” in recent months. One such nominee was Holly Teeter, a federal prosecutor with slightly less than the 12 years experience traditionally required by the ABA. Her nomination was still recommended by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan 19-1 vote. Another nominee, Brett Talley, earned an “unqualified rating” over concerns about experience and temperament. Talley has little trial experience, and began practicing law just three years ago, though he graduated from Harvard Law School in 2007.
Talley also blogs on political topics, where he vigorously advanced rightwing positions. In a 2013 post, he pledged financial, political, and intellectual loyalty to the NRA.
“Today I pledge my support to the NRA; financially, politically, and intellectually,” he wrote. “I ask you to do the same. Join the NRA. They stand for all of us now, and I pray that in the coming battle for our rights, they will be victorious.”
The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative advocacy group, counters that the ABA is dominated by well-heeled liberal litigators from white-shoe firms, and has routinely recommended Democratic nominees with experience comparative to Talley’s.
“The ABA is a liberal interest group,” said Carrie Severino, JCN’s chief counsel. “They have a long history of giving lower ratings to Republican nominees.”
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