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ABA opposes substantial number of Obama Administration's potential judicial nominees

Last week, the New York Times revealed the results of a judicial vetting process conducted by the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary consisting of fifteen members. The results uncovered that the committee opposed 14 of the approximately 185 potential nominees that the Obama administration presented for evaluation, declaring them "not qualified."

The NY Times reports that nearly all of the prospects given poor ratings were women or members of a minority group. This particular fact generated some criticism of the vetting process, more specifically the criteria used by and makeup of the ABA's committee. In almost three years, the number of President Obama's potential nominees deemed "not qualified" already exceeds the total number similarly declared by the ABA during the full eight-year administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Though it is important to note, the Obama Administration has decided not to nominate anyone the committee declared "not qualified."

Administration officials are perplexed about the reasons for some of the low ratings, and in discussions with bar panel leaders, they have expressed growing frustrations, people familiar with those conversations said. In particular, they have questioned whether the panelists -- many of whom are litigators -- place too much value on courtroom experience at the expense of lawyers who pursued career paths less likely to involve trials, like government lawyers and law professors....

The chairman since August of the bar association's vetting committee, Allan J. Joseph, would not confirm any negative ratings but defended the panel's work as fair-minded and independent. Its members, he said, are all volunteers who, as a matter of public service, put in long hours reading candidates' writings and conducting confidential interviews about them with dozens of judges and lawyers.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.