Senate GOP confirms yet another 'not qualified' judicial nominee

Senate Republicans ignored the economy and instead confirmed a 33-year-old lawyer to the federal bench, despite the fact that she's never tried a case.
A gavel sits on a desk inside the Court of Appeals at the new Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, which celebrated its official opening on Monday Jan. 14, 2013, in Denver.
A gavel sits on a desk inside the Court of Appeals at the new Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, which celebrated its official opening on Monday Jan. 14, 2013, in Denver.Brennan Linsley / AP

Kathryn Kimball Mizelle is a 33-year-old lawyer who has never tried a case. She did take part in two trials, but they were one-day affairs, and in each instance, Mizelle was just an intern.

Nevertheless, Donald Trump nominated her to serve as a federal district court judge, and yesterday, Senate Republicans confirmed Mizelle to the lifetime position on the judiciary.

In fact, she enjoyed unanimous support from GOP senators, including ostensible "centrists" such as Maine's Susan Collins, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, and Utah's Mitt Romney. Mizelle is now the 10th Trump judicial nominee to be confirmed by Senate Republicans despite receiving a "not qualified" rating from the American Bar Association.

So why did GOP senators go along with this? In part because the Republican White House told them to, and in part because she's done the kind of work the party likes to see. HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery noted:

More than 220 national human rights and civil rights groups opposed Mizelle's confirmation, citing her "stunning lack of experience" along with her involvement in civil rights rollbacks at Trump's Justice Department. During her time at the department, she supervised litigation for the Civil Rights Division and Civil Division, which, among other things, filed a Supreme Court brief arguing that businesses have a right to discriminate against LGBTQ customers and dropped the government's longstanding position that a Texas voter ID law under legal challenge was intentionally racially discriminatory.

The overall tally for Senate Republicans confirming Trump's judicial nominees is simply staggering: over the course of nearly four years, the GOP-led Senate has confirmed three Supreme Court justices, 53 appellate court judges, and 168 district court judges.

Most of these conservative jurists are quite young -- many are in their 30s and 40s -- and they'll be shaping federal jurisprudence for roughly the next half-century or so.

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. 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.

It may be tempting to think that with President-elect Joe Biden soon taking office, we'll start to see some progress when it comes to the federal judiciary, but that's unlikely: unless Democrats win both of Georgia's U.S. Senate runoff elections in early January, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will control the chamber, and as we saw in the Obama era, McConnell will simply ignore qualified judicial nominees from a Democratic White House.

No matter how many judicial vacancies arise over the next two years, McConnell will likely ignore the vast majority of them -- if the Georgia contests go the GOP's way.

As for the larger policy landscape, after Election Day a couple of weeks ago, McConnell said working on an economic aid package was "job one." In reality, Senate Republicans made no real effort to improve the economy, working instead on unrelated efforts such as confirming a 33-year-old lawyer to the federal bench, despite the fact that she's never tried a case.