Senate confirms Trump’s 50th circuit judge, despite ‘not qualified’ rating

The Senate confirmed President Trump’s 50th circuit court nominee on Wednesday despite the pick being rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association (ABA). 


Senators voted 51-44 to approve Lawrence VanDyke’s nomination to be an appeals judge on the 9th Circuit. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined Democrats in opposing his nomination.  


VanDyke grabbed headlines in October when he started crying during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The emotional moment came when he was asked about concerns that the ABA brought forth about his treatment of LGBT people. 

“I did not say that,” he said, fighting through tears. “I do not believe that. It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God, and they should all be treated with dignity and respect.”  

The ABA rated VanDyke, a former solicitor general in both Nevada and Montana, as “not qualified” following an investigation that included interviews with 60 individuals.


“Mr. VanDyke’s accomplishments are offset by the assessments of interviewees that Mr. VanDyke is arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to- day practice including procedural rules,” the group wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. 


“There was a theme that the nominee lacks humility, has an ‘entitlement’ temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful,” the ABA standing committee continued, noting that some interviewees “raised concerns about whether Mr. VanDyke would be fair to persons who are gay, lesbian, or otherwise part of the LGBTQ community.”

Republican senators, during the committee hearing, dismissed the ABA’s rating as a partisan attack because a member of the group’s standing committee responsible for the 9th Circuit donated to one of VanDyke’s political opponents. 
Republicans have put a premium on confirming Trump’s circuit court nominees, and conservative outside groups praised VanDyke on Wednesday. 

“There are few better legal minds in the country today. I congratulate Lawrence and his family for their patience and perseverance to this great achievement,”  Hiram Sasser, the general counsel for First Liberty Institute, said in a statement. 


Casey Mattox, the vice president for legal and judicial strategy at Americans for Prosperity, called VanDyke a “highly qualified individual who is committed to faithfully interpreting the Constitution and our laws.”

But VanDyke garnered widespread, fierce opposition from Democrats and civil rights groups. 
Neither of his home-state senators, Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) nor Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), returned their blue slips on the nomination. A blue slip is a sheet of paper that indicates if a home-state senator supports a nominee. Republicans made history by confirming the first circuit judge nominees who did not receive a blue slip from either home-state senator. 
“Mr. VanDyke’s temperament and integrity have been called into question by his colleagues and the American Bar Association, which rated him ‘not qualified’ for the federal bench.  And Mr. VanDyke’s record … is far outside the mainstream,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). 
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said VanDyke is “unqualified even in comparison to some of the worst nominees we’ve seen under this administration.”

“Please reject this nominee. He is so unqualified. He’s a low human being, at least according to all of this, and he’ll have a lifetime appointment on a circuit bench?” Schumer added. 

Tags Catherine Cortez Masto Charles Schumer Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Jacky Rosen Susan Collins
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