WASHINGTON—Ah, you may be wondering, is the Republican Senate still installing judges in the federal judiciary with all this other stuff going on, and does this mean that the dark energy powering this administration* will be with us long after the president* goes off to his eternal reward in a sand trap somewhere?
Why, yes. Why do you ask?
Three more were blessed with lifetime employment security on Thursday, and by fairly safe, bipartisan margins, too. (Democrats. Boy, I dunno.) On Wednesday, however, we got a real doozy in one Sarah Pitlyk, yet another Federalist Society drone, and a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh back when the latter was an annoyance on a lower court. This, despite her being yet another nominee rated “unqualified.” From the Washington Post:
In a Sept. 24 letter to lawmakers, William Hubbard, chair of the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, wrote that Pitlyk’s “experience to date has a very substantial gap, namely the absence of any trial or even real litigation experience.”
“Ms. Pitlyk has never tried a case as lead or co-counsel, whether civil or criminal,” Hubbard wrote. “She has never examined a witness. Though Ms. Pitlyk has argued one case in a court of appeals, she has not taken a deposition. She has not argued any motion in a state or federal trial court. She has never picked a jury. She has never participated at any stage of a criminal matter.”
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Most excellent qualifications, and that’s not even to mention that Pitlyk holds views on human reproduction that make the College of Cardinals look like Masters and Johnson. Mark Joseph Stern of Slate clued us in on those. Apparently, where many of these people are fetus obsessives, Pitlyk is an embryo obsessive. And, wowser.
Pitlyk, 42, has spent much of her career attacking the rights of couples who seek to have children using assisted reproductive technology, or ART, like gestational surrogacy and in vitro fertilization. She co-authored an amicus brief opposing California’s ART protections, asserting (without evidence) that “the practice of surrogacy has grave effects on society, such as diminished respect for motherhood and the unique mother-child bond.”
Pitlyk has also declared (again without evidence) that surrogacy “is harmful to mothers and children, so it’s a practice society should not be enforcing.” And she has proclaimed that frozen embryos should be recognized as human beings under the law, writing that these “children” are “killed” when embryos are destroyed. Pitlyk’s position—that states should treat embryos as humans—would likely outlaw not only abortion but also IVF and surrogacy.
Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, rose on the Senate floor to point out that the Federalist Society fast-track may well not be the best way to staff the federal judiciary.
I am concerned about the transformation of our federal judiciary under this current administration. I'm particularly concerned about rising issues around qualification and competence. So let me speak to that, if I might, for a few minutes. This Senate is doing precious little in terms of legislating, but we are moving at a breakneck pace to confirm President Trump's judicial nominees, roughly 150 so far. During the entire eight years of the previous administration, 55 circuit court judges were confirmed, nearly that same number have been confirmed in just three years of the trump administration—48. And nearly one in seven of all United States district court judges currently serving have been appointed by President Trump.
I am deeply concerned about the quality of some of these nominations. Some have never taken a deposition, argued a motion, let alone tried a case in court. And the American Bar Association, the professional association of lawyers, have ranked lawyers, have ranked nine of President Trump's lawyers as unqualified...
Let me briefly speak to two. President Trump's nominee to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals who was recently confirmed, Lawrence VanDyke, raised serious concerns about his work ethic and his temperament. He was rated not qualified by the A.B.A., based on concerns about his lack of knowledge of basic procedural rules and his commitment to being truthful. Six retired justices of the Montana supreme court questioned his fitness when he ran for the supreme court in Montana and expressed concerns about his partisanship and the possibility of corporate influence. He has opposed basic civil rights and civil liberties for the LGBTQ community and made a range of statements that I think would be disqualifying under any circumstance.
Sarah Pitlyk, whom this Senate just confirmed this week to a lifetime seat on the United States District Court in the Eastern District of Missouri, has never tried a case, neither criminal nor civil, has never taken a deposition, has never examined a witness, has never argued a motion in federal or state court. The A.B.A. unanimously rated her as unqualified for a lifetime seat in the federal judiciary.
All of which is true and, of course, completely irrelevant.
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