The American Bar Association secretly declared that 14 of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the federal bench are “not qualified.” The rejection rate is more than three times that of Obama’s predecessors, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, The New York Times
The Obama administration, which has nominated 185 judges, has questioned whether the bar association has placed too much value on courtroom experience. The association’s special role in judicial selection, in place since the Eisenhower days, has been contentious, with conservatives charging that the group has a liberal bias, the Times reported.
Nearly all those found not qualified were either women or minorities and were nominated for positions at the district court level. Members of Congress typically recommend such nominees to the White House.
“Although we may not agree with all of their ratings,” White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler told the Times, “we respect and value their historical role in evaluating judicial candidates. The president remains committed to addressing the judicial vacancy crisis with urgency and with qualified candidates who bring a diverse range of experience to the bench.”
Although Allan J. Joseph, chairman of the bar association’s vetting committee, would not confirm any negative ratings to the Times, the newspaper reported that he did defend the panel’s work as fair and independent. The vetting panel’s members are volunteers who put in long hours reading candidates’ writings and conducting confidential interviews about them with dozens of judges and lawyers, he told the Times.
“We are not a rubber stamp,” he said. “Our role is to provide the only peer review in the whole process, and we think that is valuable — particularly with a lifetime appointment under consideration.”
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