10th Trump judicial nominee so inexperienced she got rated 'not qualified'


The American Bar Association said Kathryn Mizelle has never tried a case and does not have the necessary experience to be a judge.

The American Bar Association on Wednesday rated one of Donald Trump's nominees to a federal district court in Florida as "not qualified" — the 10th Trump judicial nominee to earn that stamp of disapproval.

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the ABA said Kathryn Kimball Mizelle does not have the experience to serve as a judge for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, which Trump nominated her to.

Mizelle has been a practicing lawyer for a little less than eight years, far short of the 12-year minimum experience the ABA says a judicial nominee should have. Mizelle has also never tried a case, which the ABA said led a "substantial majority" of its Standing Committee members — which vote on whether a president's judicial nominees are qualified to serve on the federal bench — to determine Mizelle is not qualified to serve.

"Ms. Mizelle has a very keen intellect, a strong work ethic and an impressive resume. She presents as a delightful person and she has many friends who support her nomination. Her integrity and demeanor are not in question. These attributes however simply do not compensate for the short time she has actually practiced law and her lack of meaningful trial experience," Randall Noel, the chair of the ABA's Standing Committee, wrote in the letter to Graham and Feinstein.

Mizelle is now the 10th Trump judicial pick to be deemed not qualified by the ABA — a departure from past presidents, who had few if any judicial nominees earn that rating.

Former President Barack Obama, for example, did not nominate any judges the ABA deemed to be "not qualified."

Other Trump judicial nominees who earned "not qualified" ratings include Justin R. Walker, who Trump first nominated as a judge to the Western District of Kentucky despite the fact that he never tried a case.

"Based on review of his biographical information and conversations with Mr. Walker, it was challenging to determine how much of his ten years since graduation from law school has been spent in the practice of law," the ABA wrote in a letter in July 2019 after its members deemed him "not qualified" to serve as a judge. "Even crediting the time spent in judicial clerkships, Mr. Walker’s practice experience is less than his 10 years since graduation and significantly less than the 12 years of legal practice experience stated in our criteria."

Trump then nominated Walker to serve on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia — the most prestigious appeals courts as it fields appeals related to Congress and federal agencies — which Republicans ultimately confirmed him to.

The ABA Standing Committee also unanimously determined that Sarah E. Pitlyk, who Senate Republicans confirmed to serve as a judge in the Eastern District of Missouri, was unqualified due to the "absence of any trial or even real litigation experience."

Other Trump judicial nominees earned "not qualified" ratings for more nefarious reasons.

The ABA wrote in an October 2019 letter that Lawrence J.C. VanDyke — who Republicans ultimately confirmed to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — 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 humility, has an 'entitlement' temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful," the ABA wrote in its letter, adding that there were concerns about VanDyke's anti LQBTQ stances.

Ultimately, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made confirming Trump judicial nominees almost the singular priority of his tenure, even changing the rules to help pack the courts with Trump's picks.

As McConnell blocked hundreds of bills from the Democratic-led House, he led the Senate to confirm Trump judicial picks at a fast clip — even pressuring judges to retire before the end of 2020 in case Trump loses reelection so that Trump can nominate their replacements.

With the Senate back in session this week after a nearly month-long recess, McConnell is once again resuming judicial confirmations — despite not passing any coronavirus aid for the millions of out-of-work Americans.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.