Oh, man. This is just brutal. Under gentle questioning from Senator John Kennedy (R-LA), Matthew Spencer Petersen, a Trump nominee to the U.S. District Court, reveals that he is patently unqualified for the job:
— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) December 15, 2017
He has never tried a case. He’s assisted with fewer than five depositions and never taken one himself. He’s never argued a motion in court. He starts stumbling and bumbling when asked when he last read the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. He last read the Federal Rules of Evidence in law school. He doesn’t know what the Daubert standard is. He initially says he knows what a motion in limine is, but ends up conceding that he could not give a definition of it. He doesn’t know what the Younger or Pullman abstention doctrines are.
And throughout, he stutters and filibusters.
Those of you who aren’t lawyers are probably wondering: to what extent these are trick questions? Can every lawyer articulate the Daubert standard? Not necessarily, if they don’t practice in federal court, but it’s pretty basic stuff for federal court practitioners. Most lawyers at least know that it addresses the admissibility of expert testimony. This guy doesn’t. Can most lawyers distinguish between Younger and Pullman abstention and tell you which is which? Again, you’re more likely to be able to do this if you’re a federal court practitioner; they have to know the ins and outs of federal vs. state jurisdiction and abstention doctrines. I learned about abstention doctrines in my Federal Courts class in law school, and applied them as a federal judicial clerk for a United States District Judge, but in 20 years as a state prosecutor I don’t deal with those doctrines any more.
But if I were a nominee to the federal bench, I would bone up on this stuff. Especially if I had never tried a case or argued a motion or taken a deposition. I would read the FRCP and FRE. I’d look at the basic jurisdictional rules, which federal judges have to know and apply whether the parties raise them or not.
In other words, I would try to show that I am worthy of the nomination.
Nominees to the federal bench aren’t supposed to be just any random lawyer. It’s a lifetime appointment. You’re expected to have at least some idea what you’re doing.
This guy is not only unworthy, he’s not even trying. It’s shameful and embarrassing.
Lefties will use this video to suggest that all Trump’s nominees are unqualified. WRONG!
By most accounts, Donald J. Trump has done a good job manning the federal judiciary. The New York Times is upset at the way he is reshaping the federal courts — in particular the appellate courts, whose rulings are final in all but the .1% of cases that go to the Supreme Court. Trump doesn’t care about judges, so he largely outsources the job to the Federalist Society — and as far as I can tell, they’re doing an excellent job by and large.
But the fella in the video above shows a hole in the process. Whether through cronyism or donations or some other kind of connection, he received a nomination for a position for which he is totally unqualified. Nobody should be on the federal bench who is this lacking in experience and basic knowledge.
Find the hole and fix it.