Leonard Steven Grasz was nominated by President Donald Trump for a position on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, but if the American Bar Association has anything to say about it, he won’t get the job. Grasz, a Nebraska attorney, has to be confirmed by the Senate, and the ABA issued a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday about his qualifications. Their conclusion? He’s not qualified.
The ABA rating system for judicial nominees offers three possible outcomes: Qualified, Well Qualified, or Not Qualified. The eight-page document explains that the ABA does not recommend Grasz because they believe his “passionately-held social agenda” clouds his judgment, preventing him from following judicial precedent.
The consensus apparently was that there were doubts that Grasz could be “free from bias,” citing his documented disagreement with abortion cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and how lower courts should work around them. While he was Chief Deputy Attorney General of Nebraska, he defended the state’s prohibition on partial-birth abortion. Grasz has stated that his pro-life belief would not affect his ability to be a fair judge, but an ABA committee felt otherwise.
The ABA’s statement said that this was not the only reason to believe that Grasz would not be able to put his personal views aside, but they declined to illustrate others. They did note that in addition to concerns about bias, Grasz appeared to have other “temperament issues” that made him a poor judicial candidate.
The recommendation came after an evaluator submitted an informal report based on more than 180 interviews, including one with Grasz. As is custom when an informal report deems a nominee Not Qualified, a second evaluator conducted a series of interviews and wrote a report. Both evaluators’ reports then went to the committee, which voted unanimously (with one abstention) that Grasz is Not Qualified.
Grasz will face a confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, who supports Grasz’s nomination, spoke out against the ABA’s conclusion. “It’s sad that the ABA would contort their ratings process to try to tarnish Steve’s professional reputation in order to drive a political agenda,” he said to the Omaha World-Herald. “In more than a decade as chief deputy attorney general, whether he was litigating cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington or the Nebraska Supreme Court in Lincoln, Republicans and Democrats alike knew that Steve represented Nebraska with integrity and professionalism.”
Senator Deb Fischer, who also supports the nomination, said that Grasz is “highly respected” by people on both sides of the aisle.
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