The American Bar Association evaluates the qualifications of judicial nominees, and in most instances, across multiple administrations, the ABA determines that the nominees are prepared to serve on the federal bench. In the Obama era, for example, literally none of the Democratic president's nominees received a "not qualified" rating. The same is true of Bill Clinton's nominees.*
Donald Trump, however, less than a year into his first term, has already sent four "not qualified" judicial nominees to the Senate. The L.A. Times highlighted one of them today.
Brett J. Talley, President Trump's nominee to be a federal judge in Alabama, has never tried a case, was unanimously rated "not qualified" by the American Bar Assn.'s judicial rating committee, has practiced law for only three years and, as a blogger last year, displayed a degree of partisanship unusual for a judicial nominee, denouncing "Hillary Rotten Clinton" and pledging support for the National Rifle Assn.
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, on a party-line vote, approved him for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.
Talley is 36 years old. In his exceedingly brief legal career, he's never tried a case or argued a motion. During his confirmation hearing, Talley conceded that he participated in a court hearing only once -- as part of a team. He did, however, run a pro-NRA blog.
Donald Trump decided that this young man deserves a lifetime position on the federal bench, which seems awfully difficult to defend. But what strikes me as even more important is the fact that literally every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed Talley's nomination. Not one GOP senator on the panel felt compelled to say, "You know, I like conservative judicial nominees as much as the next Republican, but I can't go along with this one. We need to have some standards."
Instead, Trump sent an unqualified nominee to Capitol Hill, and Senate Republicans reached for their rubber stamp.
I continue to think this is the most under-appreciated aspect of the Trump presidency: judicial nominees are the only area in which the Republican White House is actually succeeding in getting what it wants.