The American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has deemed President Trump nominee Lawrence VanDyke unqualified to sit on the 9th Circuit Court, determining that he lacks “professional competence” and “judicial temperament.”
The Judicial Crisis Network noted some concerns regarding the ABA's evaluation. For starters, the lead evaluator, Marcia Davenport, a trial attorney in Montana, openly opposed VanDyke when he ran for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court and even contributed to his opponent's campaign. Davenport is a "left-wing partisan," JCN claims.
"The ABA has amassed quite the history of bias against conservatives over the last few decades, but with VanDyke, it has really outdone itself," JCN policy director Carrie Severino writes.
If this was an analysis of his professional experience alone, VanDyke would be a shoo-in. He has 14 years' work in appellate law and has argued over 20 federal appeals, and has been the counsel of record on 28 Supreme Court briefs. Unfortunately, the ABA wrote in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), those achievements are "offset" by his personality and partisan ideology.
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-today practice including procedural rules. There was a theme that the nominee lacks October 29, 2019 Page 2 humility, has an “entitlement” temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful.
Some interviewees raised concerns about whether Mr. VanDyke would be fair to persons who are gay, lesbian, or otherwise part of the LGBTQ community. Mr. VanDyke would not say affirmatively that he would be fair to any litigant before him, notably members of the LGBTQ community.
Yet, where those interviewees raised concerns, plenty of VanDyke's other former colleagues commended his efforts and qualifications.
“As the former Attorney General of Nevada, I can assure you there is no more qualified person for our Ninth Circuit seat than Lawrence VanDyke. I say this after daily personal interaction with him for many years. He has the experience, the integrity, and the judicial temperament to make him the most outstanding candidate put forward in a generation,” said Adam P. Laxalt.
Montana Attorney General had a similar description, calling VanDyke hard working, and adding that "he has the intelligence, experience, fairness and diligence to be a great addition to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals."
Another interviewee claimed on Twitter that Davenport only granted him five minutes of their time once he began praising the nominee.
I was interviewed by Ms. Davenport regarding Lawrence’s qualifications. I told her he’s one of the most earnest, humble, kind-hearted, and intellectally engaged lawyers I know. I was surprised that the interview lasted all of about 5 minutes. Maybe I shouldn’t have been.— Brad Lingo (@ProfBradLingo) October 30, 2019
The JCN concludes its complaint by noting ABA’s "long history of bias against conservative nominees to the judiciary." However, they are comforted knowing that the association is given "very little credence by Republican presidential administrations and senators because of its embarrassing history."