Last week, Senate Republicans confirmed to the federal bench Sarah Pitlyk, a 42-year-old conservative lawyer who received a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association. The ABA’s rationale for the rating explained that Pitlyk, among other things, has never tried a case as lead or co-counsel, examined a witness, taken a deposition, or picked a jury.
She also has a record of fierce opposition to reproductive rights, arguing that fertility treatments and surrogacy have “grave” adverse effects on society. Senate Republicans nevertheless rewarded her with a lifetime appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.Yesterday, as the HuffPost reported, the GOP-led Senate confirmed yet another one of Donald Trump’s highly controversial judicial nominees who also received a “not qualified” rating.
Senate Republicans voted Wednesday to make Lawrence VanDyke a lifetime federal judge, despite the American Bar Association rating him “not qualified” because, according to his own colleagues, he is “arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-today practice including procedural rules.” […]
More than 200 national civil and human rights groups opposed VanDyke, citing his record of attacking LGBTQ rights (he claimed in a 2004 Harvard Law Record article that same-sex families hurt children and that LGBTQ people are deviant) and arguing against women’s reproductive rights (as Montana’s solicitor general, he submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of Arizona’s 20-week abortion ban and asked the justices to reconsider Roe v. Wade).
The final tally on the Senate floor yesterday was 51 to 44. Every Republican in the chamber except Maine’s Susan Collins supported VanDyke’s confirmation. (If his name seems at all familiar, Rachel did a segment on his rather dramatic confirmation hearing in October.)
For those keeping score, as things stand this morning, the GOP-led Senate has confirmed 172 of Trump’s judicial nominees: 120 district court nominees, 50 circuit court nominees, and two Supreme Court nominees. Or put another way, about one in five federal judges was chosen by Donald Trump. Most of these jurists are quite young – some are in their 30s – and they’ll serve on the federal bench for many decades.
Also note, this has happened in just three years. There’s still another year remaining in Trump’s term – and there’s a very real possibility he’ll get a second term, at which point the judiciary would shift to the far right in ways that would likely remain unchanged for most of the remainder of the 21st century.
Politico reported this morning that the rate at which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pushed through the Republican White House’s judicial nominees is “staggering.”
I’ve long believed the lasting effects of the Trump era can be boiled down to the three C’s: the climate, the nation’s credibility, and the federal courts. Health care benefits can be restored, alliances can be rebuilt, and tax breaks can be scrapped, but the lost years on dealing with the climate crisis are tragic; it’ll be a long while before the world forgets that we’re a country capable of electing someone like Trump; and with Republicans confirming young, far-right ideologues to the bench at a brutal clip, progressive policies will face long odds in federal courts for a very long time.