In his rush to pack the federal bench with hardcore, right-wing conservatives before either he or the Republican majority in Congress are forced out, President Trump has set a new low with his appointment of the most unqualified candidate to be a judge in modern history.
The complete lack of qualifications didn’t stop the Senate Judiciary Committee from voting on party lines to approve 36-year-old Brett J. Talley to serve a lifetime appointment as a judge on the federal bench. He didn’t get a single Democratic vote.
How unqualified is he? The American Bar Association declared him “unqualified” because Talley has never tired a case in court, only rarely has even been in a federal court and has only practiced law for three years.
— Jeffrey Guterman (@JeffreyGuterman) November 8, 2017
So what are his qualifications for a high paying, prestigious job that is his for the rest of his life? His politics.
One indication is that on his blog last year, Tally “displayed a degree of partisanship unusual for a judicial nominee,” reports the Los Angeles Times, “denouncing ‘Hillary Rotten Clinton’ and pledging support for the National Rifle Association,”
In a blog post with the title “Call to Arms” about a proposal to require background check and put limits on rapid-fire weapons in the wake of the murders of children at Sandy Hook Elementary, Talley wrote that “the President (Obama) and his Democratic allies in Congress are about to launch the greatest attack on our constitutional freedoms in our lifetime.”
“The object of that war is to make guns illegal, in all form,” wrote Tally, adding that the NRA “stands for all of us now, and I pray they will be victorious.”
Last month, during a confirmation hearing, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Ca.) asked Talley about that blog post and his response to a comment.
The commenter wrote, “We will have to resort to arms when our other rights – of speech, press, assembly, representative government – fail to yield the desired results.”
Talley responded to that comment calling for armed insurrection if the commenters point of view does not prevail, “I agree completely with this.”
Asked about it by Sen. Feinstein, Tally said he was “trying to generate discussion. I wanted people to be able to use my blog to discuss issues, to come together and find common ground.”
Feinstein also asked Tally, in a written questionnaire, how many times he had appeared in Federal Court?
“To my recollection,” he responded, “during my time as Alabama’s deputy solicitor general, I participated as part of the legal team in one hearing.”
Trump, who has had a hard time appointing people to the White House and most federal agencies, has been in a big rush when it comes to the courts.
He inherited an unusual number of vacancies on the federal bench because, for the last two years that President Obama was in office, the Republican majority did all they could to delay, stall or simply refuse to consider candidates who were highly qualified, certainly compared to Tally,
Trump has nominated 59 conservatives to be on the federal bench to date.
During the final two years, President Obama was in office only 22 judges were confirmed, while dozens were ignored by the Senate, including a U.S. Supreme Court nominee (Judge Merrick Garland).
That was the fewest number of judges approved by any administration since Harry Truman was president.
Speaking recently in the White House Rose Garden with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) at his side, Trump was absolutely gleeful about his effort to pack the courts with right-wing conservatives.
“When you think about it, Mitch and I were saying,” said Trump, “that has consequences 40 years out, depending on the age of the judge – but 40 years out.”
Not surprisingly, Democratic, progressive and civil rights groups have denounced the vote to put Tally on the bench.
“He’s practiced law for less than three years and never argued a motion, let along brought a case. This is the least amount of experience I’ve seen in a judicial nominee,” Kristine Lucius, executive VP of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, told the L.A. Times.
Lucius and others have also raised doubts about whether Tally has the “temperament and ability” to serve as a federal judge.
Tally’s road to the court was paved by his friendship with Luther Strange, who he served as a deputy.
Strange was appointed to the U.S. Senate after Jeff Sessions departed for the Justice Department. Stange later lost in the primary to run for his seat when he was beaten by Roy Moore, another arch-conservative, who this week has been accused to dating a 14-year-old girl when he was 32 years old, raising calls from many quarters for him to step aside (he refuses and declares his innocence).
Thanks to Strange, Tally was given a job when Trump took over in the Justice Department doing – what else – searches for people to nominate to fill the many empty judgeships. Apparently, Tally did not have to look farther than his bathroom mirror to fill an empty spot in Alabama.
Tally’s nomination must now be approved by the full Senate, where the Republicans are once again expected to vote in lock-step to approve his appointment.
Sadly, Trump does get one thing correctly. His judicial appointments will outlast him and most of Congress and will be a kind of cancer within the judicial system for generations to come, no matter who is elected president in the future.
For instance, the majority of Americans may want sensible gun laws, but judges like Tally will be there to make sure they don’t get what they want, even if a new majority is elected who see that there is too much gun violence and it is not necessary.
Trump has packed the federal agencies with people who are not qualified – and in many cases who are only interested in disrupting the traditional processes – and he is doing the same with the judiciary, which may not get a lot of attention, but is a huge disaster for all of us.