Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley left a Biden judicial nominee speechless on Wednesday after grilling her on her defense of Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Loren L. AliKhan defended Bowser in 2020 in the case of Capitol Hill Baptist Church vs. Bowser. The church sued the city for its restrictions on worship ceremonies, including those held outdoors. The church applied for a waiver but was denied despite the fact that at the same time the city was permitting and encouraging large protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
AliKhan said she was defending the mayor who was her client.
“How did that case go for you?” Hawley asked.
“We lost that case,” AliKhan said.
“It was found that the restrictions did not meet the standard of strict scrutiny,” AliKhan said.
“Meaning they were unconstitutional?” Hawley pressed.
“Meaning that they did not survive strict scrutiny and it’s a matter of public record that the District of Columbia did not appeal that decision.”
“Why, why, why were they struck down?” Hawley asked.
“Excuse me, Senator?”
“Why were the restrictions that you defended struck down as discriminatory?” Hawley asked. “Why were they?”
“Because they did not satisfy–”
“Why didn’t they?”
“The court concluded that there were restrictions that were not neutral of general applicability–”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah that’s legalese. Why didn’t they? Why didn’t they on the facts? You know the facts, you’re a good lawyer, why’d you lose?”
“We lost because applying the strict scrutiny test, the court concluded that the restrictions were not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest,” AliKhan said.
AliKhan then became silent, looking completely flabbergasted.
“Oh, come on judge, don’t make me do this. Do you want me to go through it for you? You lost this because Mayor Bowser was going to mass protests, herself personally, with thousands of people … At the same time she was doing that she was prohibiting churches, religious people, from gathering socially-distanced outside, wearing masks and the district court said ‘you can’t do that, that’s discrimination.'”
AliKhan said the court decision was “consistent” with other rulings before Hawley lodged one more question. (RELATED: ‘You Oughta … Answer’: Kennedy Dukes It Out With Biden Nominee Over Affirmative Action)
“Why did you argue that religious services, religious people pose a greater risk of an infection than people gathered to argue for defunding the police?”
“I was representing my client,” AliKhan said.
“But why’d you make that argument?”
“My understanding was the nature of singing and other things epidemiologists thought could transmit COVID at a higher rate,” AliKhan said.
Hawley said he was “disappointed” that AliKhan made that argument before the court.