Senate

Senate confirms Trump pick labeled ‘not qualified’ by American Bar Association

Greg Nash

The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm a controversial district court pick of President Trump’s who was rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. 
 

Senators voted 49-44 to approve Sarah Pitlyk’s nomination to be a judge for the Eastern District of Missouri. The vote was party line except for GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), who opposed the nomination. 

 

Pitlyk ran into controversy for her previous statements on, and advocacy against, abortion as well as in vitro fertilization and surrogacy.  

 
Democrats railed against her nomination this week ahead of her confirmation. But with Republicans holding a 53-seat majority in the Senate, a nominee can lose three GOP senators and still let Vice President Pence break a tie in their favor. 
 

“Ms. Pitlyk defended a state law banning abortion at six weeks. She opposed the Affordable Care Act’s coverage for contraception. … Ms. Pitlyk has also filed multiple legal briefs that contain misinformation,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said during a floor speech.

 
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), asked about Pitlyk during a press conference, responded, “There are many bad nominations, but it’s hard to think of one that’s as bad as hers.” 
 
Pitlyk — who serves as the special counsel for the Thomas More Society, a conservative law firm — told the National Catholic Register that “surrogacy is harmful to mothers and children, so it’s a practice society should not be enforcing.”
 
She also defended Iowa’s six-week abortion ban, which was subsequently struck down by a state court. 
 

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, praised Pitlyk on Wednesday, saying she would be a “a principled and fair judge for decades to come.”

“Sarah’s strong legal experience, sharp intellect, and commitment to the rule of law make her an outstanding choice for the Eastern District. I was proud to recommend her to President Trump,” he added in a statement.

 

Pitlyk also defended her advocacy work during her hearing before the Judiciary Committee, saying that she was part of a “long line of other people who have sat at this table who have had history in advocacy or in an issue-related advocacy or in politics and who have become very distinguished jurists.”

 
But Collins, in a statement explaining her decision to oppose Pitlyk, questioned if Trump’s pick would be able to separate her personal views from the rulings she will make as a judge. 
 
“My concern is not based on Ms. Pitlyk’s personal views on abortion or various medical decisions, which she has every right to hold. I do question, however, given her pattern of strident advocacy, whether she could put aside her personal views on these matters,” Collins added.
 
Pitlyk was rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, according to a memo sent to Judiciary Committee leadership. The outside group’s standing committee said it “believes that Ms. Pitlyk does not have the requisite trial or litigation experience or its equivalent.” 
 
Collins also pointed to Pitlyk’s lack of experience and concerns that the nominee would not be able to set aside her personal views on abortion as reasons she was opposing the nomination. 

“After a careful review of the Judiciary Committee proceedings and Ms. Pitlyk’s legal practice, I have concluded that she does not have sufficient experience to receive a federal district court appointment,” Collins said.
Tags Charles Schumer Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Josh Hawley Susan Collins
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