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ABA bias and judicial evaluations

Early in the Bush's first term, the administration caused a small controversy when they announced they would no longer cooperate with the American Bar Association's judicial ratings, defending the decision on the grounds that the ABA was biased. The most famous example of that bias was the "Qualified/Not Qualified" ratings given Judges Posner and Easterbrook during the Reagan administration; the two went on to be the most prolific and cited judges of their generation.

We now have another prime example. Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination to the D.C. Circuit has been held up for years, has received two "well-qualified" evaluations from the ABA. However, in recent weeks, the Democrats have singled Kavanaugh out as someone they want to make a stand on, even getting a second Judiciary Committee hearing on him. And the ABA has now followed suit, downgrading Kavanaugh from "well qualified" to "qualified"—apparently, the additional experience of being Staff Secretary for the Bush administration as he awaits a Senate vote makes him less qualified. The committee president, Stephen Tober, went on to leak to the New York Times various anonymous bad-mouthing of Kavanaugh in a smear inconsistent even with the "qualified" rating. (Neil Lewis, "Bar Panel Downgrades Bush Nominee for Judiciary", New York Times, May 9 (via Lattman); ConfirmThem blog).



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.