Senate Democrats continue obsession over religious beliefs of federal judicial nominees

In recent years, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have generated a long list of wildly inappropriate questions and comments regarding the religious backgrounds of federal judicial candidates. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) has led the charge, backed up by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and others.

Now they’re back at it. Last week Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked New Jersey district court nominee Zahid Quraishi, “What do you know about Sharia law?”

Quraishi, currently a U.S. Magistrate Judge with outstanding legal credentials, responded that he knew nothing about Sharia. (Quraishi was and raised in New Jersey, the son of Pakistani Muslim immigrants.)  And there is no reason to believe that he would, other than Senate Democrats’ obsession with stereotyping individual Americans based on their ethnic backgrounds.

It’s important to understand exactly how bad a question this was. First, it has nothing at all to do with Quraishi’s ability to perform the job for which he has been nominated. Whether Quaraishi has never heard of Sharia, or whether he is a renowned Sharia scholar, should make no difference in his ability to oversee trials and apply U.S. law as a federal district judge. Second, the question itself put Quraishi in an impossible situation: whatever answer he gave would be bound to erode support from some segment of the population. (And indeed, some Muslim groups are apparently now rethinking their support of his nomination simply because of his honest answer.)

This was an entirely unforced error by Durbin, who half-apologized for the question in advance but still showed the utter lack of intelligence to ask it.

As best I can tell, Zahid Quraishi is a classic American success story. His nomination should rise or fall on his qualifications, not the political or cultural identity that others wish upon him.

Durbin to be top Democrat on Senate Judiciary Committee

In a secret ballot vote, Senate Democrats have approved a plan to let Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois lead the party on the Senate Judiciary Committee for the next Congress. The move was made possible after Senator Dianne Feinstein of California chose not to remain in that leadership position.

It’s not clear to me whether Durbin will be much of a change from Feinstein, whose recent tenure was marked both by moments of embarassing partisanship and sensible statesmanship. But Durbin cannot be worse (I hope) than his primary rival for the position, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. A valuable friend to the federal courts not too long ago, Whitehouse approached the lunatic fringe as of late, threatening the Supreme Court directly and ranting about dark money funding of judicial nominees. Let’s hope Durbin (or someone) can exert control and insist that Senators live up the standard of decorum and reasoned debate that the American people rightly expect of them.