It’s not just the quantity of Donald Trump’s judicial nominees who’ve been confirmed by Senate Republicans; as regular readers know, it’s also the quality that’s striking.
Sarah Pitlyk, for example, received a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, and the ABA’s rationale is quite persuasive: “Ms. Pitlyk has never tried a case as lead or co-counsel, whether civil or criminal. She has never examined a witness. Though Ms. Pitlyk has argued one case in a court of appeals, she has not taken a deposition. She has not argued any motion in a state or federal trial court. She has never picked a jury. She has never participated at any stage of a criminal matter.”
So why in the world did she get a judicial nomination from Donald Trump? It probably has something to do with Pitlyk being a Federalist Society member, a former Brett Kavanaugh clerk, and a fierce opponent of reproductive rights who’s argued that fertility treatments and surrogacy have “grave” adverse effects on society. Jennifer Bendery explained this week:
In private practice and as special counsel at Thomas More Society, Pitlyk established a clear record of attacking reproductive rights. She defended anti-abortion activist David Daleiden, who broke federal and state laws by secretly recording and deceptively editing videos that falsely claimed to expose Planned Parenthood’s illegal sale of fetal tissue. She defended Iowa’s six-week abortion ban that was later struck down as unconstitutional. In another case, Pitlyk argued that it is “scientific fact” that “human life begins at the moment when a human sperm fertilizes a human egg.” (It is not scientific fact.)
After losing that case, Pitlyk lamented that “the trial court’s judgment treated the embryonic children as inanimate objects, not human beings with the same interests as other unborn children.”
It’s against this backdrop that the Trump White House chose Pitlyk for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. This afternoon, the 42-year-old conservative was confirmed by the Republican-led Senate on a 49-44 vote.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the only Republican to oppose her nomination, and no Senate Democrats broke ranks to support her.
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, we can expect a generation’s worth of conservative court rulings.
Postscript: For those keeping score, as of this afternoon, the GOP-led Senate has confirmed 120 of Trump’s district court nominees, 48 of his circuit court nominees, and two of Trump’s Supreme Court nominees. (These figures have been corrected since original publication.)