On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from five more federal district court nominees. Unlike those nominated for the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal, district court nominees often undergo little serious questioning. Their resumes speak to their qualifications, and the political stakes are lower than with appellate judges.
But basic qualifications are a serious problem for too many Trump nominees. When questioned by Senator John Kennedy, D.C. District nominee Matthew Petersen was unable to identify the most basic legal concepts that a federal judge must contend with on a daily basis. He admitted to being unfamiliar with the Daubert standard for evidence, Younger and Pullman abstention, and even the current Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This is not particularly surprising, since he has never tried a case, or even argued a motion, at any level of state or federal court.
Here is the jaw-dropping video, courtesy of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s Twitter feed. Mr. Peterson, a member of the Federal Election Commission since 2008 (and twice its chairman) has since withdrawn his nomination.
Mr. President, how about populating the trial courts with, you know, people who have actually done some trials?
UPDATE/CORRECTION: Peterson’s nomination is still pending as of Friday evening. But it’s hard to imagine it won’t be withdrawn soon.