Trump administration shakes up procedure of vetting federal judges

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On Friday, the American Bar Association (ABA) received notification that the White House is breaking away from a long-standing practice of allowing the ABA to oversee vetting of candidates for the federal bench before nominating them for the more than 100 judicial vacancies.

In a statement on Friday announcing the development, ABA President Linda A. Klein said it was “notified that the White House does not intend to follow the long-standing practice of inviting the independent ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary to review the professional qualifications of prospective nominees to the lower federal courts on a pre-nomination basis.”

Klein added that the ABA provided prenomination evaluations of potential judicial candidates to every administration since that of Dwight D. Eisenhower, with the exception of that of George W. Bush, who took the same approach as Trump in breaking the long-standing tradition.

According to The Washington Times, White House Counsel Donald McGahn wrote in a letter to the ABA published by the New York Times, saying Trump’s administration does “not intend to give any professional organizations special access to our nominees.” He continued, “Like previous Administrations, we will release information regarding each nominee in a manner that provides equal access to all interested groups.”

Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, nominated by Trump, reportedly received high marks from the ABA, who considered him to be “well qualified.”

“We do not give the ‘well qualified’ rating lightly,” Nancy Scott Degan, an official of the bar association, said last week at Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings.

In addition to Gorsuch’s nomination, Trump has also nominated Judge Amul Thapar, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky to a seat on the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals.

The ABA has previously been critical of Trump’s travel order and of him allegedly rebuking judges who ruled against his executive order on travel and refugees. “Personal attacks on judges are attacks on our Constitution,” Klein said in February.

While the ABA asserts that its judicial evaluations do not “consider ideology or political philosophy,” a study concluded that the association is more likely to give left-leaning nominees a “well qualified” rating compared to their Republican counterparts, says the report.

Currently, 125 posts remain vacant out of the 890 authorized federal judgeships.

H/T: The Washington Times

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