Embarrassments show judicial confirmation rushed

This editorial appeared in The Washington Post. 

President Donald Trump has confirmed 12 nominees to judgeships on the federal courts of appeals − more than any other modern president achieved during his first year. Yet while Republicans may pride themselves on this record, a string of recent embarrassments shows that the Senate is rushing too quickly.

The White House announced last week that it would not be moving forward with two nominees, Brett Talley of Alabama and Jeff Mateer of Texas. Talley and Mateer faced resistance from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. John Neely Kennedy, R-La. − though both senators voted in support of Talley's nomination before the committee.

Mateer, who referred to transgender children as "Satan's plan," is the less concerning of the two. Before Mateer went far in the confirmation process, questions arose over whether he had failed to disclose his hateful comments. By the time Trump withdrew his support, Mateer had yet to even file the paperwork required for his committee hearing.

Talley, on the other hand, is a case study of how the confirmation process has broken down. Unanimously rated "not qualified" to be a judge by the American Bar Association, he has never tried a case or filed a motion in federal court. His hobbies have included ghost-hunting and right-wing political blogging. Yet he won the support of every Republican on the Judiciary Committee. Grassley, Kennedy and even Talley's home-state Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., balked only when it surfaced that the nominee had failed to disclose both his wife's work with White House Counsel Don McGahn and contentious Internet comments - including one defending "the first KKK."

We are glad that these senators raised concerns about Talley's nomination and that the White House heeded their warnings. But it should not have taken these revelations about Talley's lack of candor to make clear his lack of qualifications.

Republicans may already have learned their lesson. Kennedy aggressively quizzed Matthew Spencer Petersen on his courtroom knowledge during Petersen's confirmation hearing for a position on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The nominee proved unable to answer even basic legal questions and is clearly unqualified to be a federal judge.

The committee should next call back Thomas Farr, the nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, to explain discrepancies regarding his knowledge of a voter-suppression effort by then-Sen. Jesse Helms' 1990 campaign.



The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.


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