A former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh when Kavanaugh was a judge on U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit may himself ascend to lofty heights. It is the nightmare scenario for liberals that they feared was coming.
All indications are that President Donald Trump is ready and raring to replace soon-to-be retiring George W. Bush-appointed Judge Thomas Griffith with the young, inexperienced—and, per the American Bar Association—”not qualified” U.S. District Judge Justin Walker, 37.
As Law&Crime reported in early March, Judge Griffith announced that he was going to retire by Sept. 2020 after serving 15 years on the federal bench. At the time, progressives freaked out about the certainty that Trump would nominate and the Senate majority would confirm a young, conservative judicial nominee to one of the most important courts in America before the election.
Marge Baker, executive vice president for policy and program at progressive advocacy group People for the American Way, told Law&Crime last month that there was “deep concern” about the implications of Judge Griffith’s retirement.
“We’re deeply concerned about the possibility that Donald Trump will get a third appointment to the D.C. Circuit, which is one of the country’s most influential courts,” Baker said. “The court has a huge role in determining the legality of actions by the administration and the federal government and this president has already appointed two people, Greg Katsas and Neomi Rao, who are Trump loyalists and advocates for expansive presidential power. Having another judge on this court who is willing to give Trump carte blanche to do whatever he wants to do would be another huge blow to the rule of law and will encourage Trump’s further abuses of power.”
Indeed, President Trump has already gotten two lifetime appointments on this crucial panel: Judges Gregory Katsas and Neomi Rao. Walker fits the mold.
All of this, of course means, that Walker’s stay on the District Court level would be a short one. The Republican-led Senate confirmed him to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky in Oct. 2019 despite outcry by Democrats and the ABA about his qualifications or lack thereof.
Walker, who was a law professor at the University of Louisville and is a long-time Federalist Society member, simply did not have the trial experience to merit a qualified rating, the ABA said.
“The Standing Committee believes that Mr. Walker does not presently have the requisite trial or litigation experience or its equivalent,” the chair of the ABA’s Standing Committee Paul T. Moxley wrote in July. “Mr. Walker’s experience to date has a very substantial gap, namely the absence of any significant trial experience. Mr. Walker has never tried a case as lead or co-counsel, whether civil or criminal.”
When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) opposed Walker’s nomination to the District Court, Schumer also focused on Walker’s lack of experience.
“Mr. Walker is less than 10 years out of law school, has never tried a case, has never served as co-counsel, and it’s not clear how much of his 10 years has even been spent practicing law,” he said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that Walker’s lack of experience was not the only worrying aspect of his potential confirmation.
“He has opposed the ability of federal agencies to adopt critical health and safety protections for workers and the environment, and he has argued that the FBI should not be independent of the president,’” she said.
Walker vigorously defended Kavanaugh throughout the tumultuous Supreme Court confirmation process. Walker reportedly challenged the veracity of Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation in more than 70 media interviews.
What’s important is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) thinks “you cannot credibly argue that Justin Walker is not a judicial all-star.” The connections run deep, per the Washington Post:
[McConnell] knows Walker’s grandfather and first met Walker when he interviewed the future majority leader for an article for his high school newspaper. McConnell had previously recommended Walker for the Western District seat and in January, personally accompanied the judge to the Oval Office to meet the president, although that conversation would ultimately veer to Trump’s then-looming impeachment trial.
Trump, McConnell recalled, came away impressed with Walker during the 15-minute conversation and connected well with him. Walker is the youngest nominee to the D.C. Circuit since 1983, and the first from outside Washington since 2005.
“I thought it might be a good idea to go outside the Beltway” for the D.C. vacancy, McConnell said. “There are plenty of D.C. lawyers that salivate over this job.”
[Image via MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images]
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