Remember Brownie? This morning Senate Republicans might as well have given him a federal judgeship.
If there’s anything the last five years have proven — from Iraq to Katrina – it’s that competence matters.
Federal judgeships cannot be political gifts to political cronies.
But that’s what happened this morning – Brett Kavanaugh is now a judge on the D.C. Circuit. And Washington barely seemed to notice – in spite of the noise we Democrats made about his outrageous nomination.
Am I overstating the case? You tell me.
Mr. Kavanaugh’s legal experience consists largely of three years with Ken Starr and responsibility in the White House Counsel’s Office for selecting right-wing judicial nominees.
Now he’ll be a judge on one of the most important federal courts with huge impacts on worker rights and employee safety, clean air, and clean water. But not once in his hearings did Mr. Kavanaugh point to any experience in these areas of the law. Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t have the experience for this job. An attorney who has played a central role in only five court cases isn’t ready to manage one.
What are we stuck with? Judges on the D.C. Circuit — the court to which Mr. Kavanaugh was just confirmed — averaged over 26 years of legal experience at the time of their confirmation. Kavanaugh will be a glaring exception. In his 15-year legal career, he has only played a central role in five cases—and was the lead counsel in only three of those.
So why did he get the job? Kavanaugh has been a key member of the Bush Administration from day one. Now the President’s Staff Secretary, he began his White House career in the Office of Legal Council. During his tenure there, his primary responsibility was selecting and preparing federal court nominees. Given his past recommendations, judges like Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers-Brown, and William Pryor, and his central role in pushing the federal judiciary far to the right of mainstream American, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb predicting the kind of judge Kavanaugh will be.
In his three years with Ken Starr, not only did he help craft the articles of impeachment against President Clinton, he publicly defended Starr after it was over, calling him an “American hero” who fell victim to a “presidentially approved smear campaign against him.”
Federal judges are supposed to be above the political fray. Most come to us with unimpeachable qualifications. But this judgeship reeks of political payback.
I voted against Kavanaugh’s nomination as did 35 other senators. Every one a Democrat. But it wasn’t enough.
So here’s what has to happen.
Soon we will be asked to vote on the nominations of Terrance Boyle to the Fourth Circuit and Mike Wallace to the Fifth Circuit. Boyle’s nomination is opposed by an unprecedented group of at least 30 law enforcement associations, and Michael Wallace’s nomination received the first ABA rating of unanimously “not qualified” since President Reagan. If we are to stop the ideological court-packing that is taking place under this Administration, if we are to stop this culture of cronyism and protect the integrity and independence of our federal courts, we need to stand strong against these nominees, you need to speak out, write to your senators and your newspapers. Force a debate.
But the real answer? We don’t have enough Democrats in the Senate. Want to end the cronyism? Win the Senate this November.
End of story – that’s the only real and lasting answer.