On a day when the United States surpassed a quarter of a million people dead from COVID-19, Senate Republicans were busy taking action on something else: confirming another one of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association.
The Senate spent Wednesday afternoon confirming Kathryn Kimball Mizelle to a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Every Republican present voted yes. Every Democrat present voted no.
Mizelle, 33, earned the ABA’s embarrassing “not qualified” rating because of her lack of experience. She doesn’t meet the ABA’s requirement that a nominee to a lifetime federal judgeship have at least 12 years of experience practicing law. Mizelle has been practicing law only since 2012, which the ABA notes is “a rather marked departure” from its standard.
She has also never tried a case ― civil or criminal ― as lead attorney or co-counsel.
“She presents as a delightful person and she has many friends who support her nomination. Her integrity and demeanor are not in question,” the ABA’s evaluation concludes. “These attributes however simply do not compensate for the short time she has actually practiced law and her lack of meaningful trial experience.”
Mizelle is Trump’s 10th court pick to get the “not qualified” rating, an exceptionally high number for a president. None of President Barack Obama’s court picks got the rating in eight years. Six of President George W. Bush’s nominees earned the rating in his two terms.
More than 220 national human rights and civil rights groups opposed Mizelle’s confirmation, citing her “stunning lack of experience” along with her involvement in civil rights rollbacks at Trump’s Justice Department.
During her time at the department, she supervised litigation for the Civil Rights Division and Civil Division, which, among other things, filed a Supreme Court brief arguing that businesses have a right to discriminate against LGBTQ customers and dropped the government’s longstanding position that a Texas voter ID law under legal challenge was intentionally racially discriminatory.
“This nominee has been put forward not only because she is an ultraconservative ideologue, but also because she is a Trump loyalist, having worked in the Trump Justice Department to dismantle many critical civil rights protections,” the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote to senators in September. “The Senate must reject her nomination.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is rushing to confirm as many of Trump’s court picks as possible before the current Congress ends. Traditionally, the Senate does not confirm judges in a lame-duck session, but McConnell, whose priority has been confirming conservative judges, has pushed through half a dozen nominees in the two weeks since Trump lost the election, with more in the queue.
Thanks to McConnell’s efforts, Trump’s greatest legacy will arguably be his judges. As of Wednesday, he has been able to confirm three Supreme Court justices, 53 appeals court judges and 168 district court judges. All are lifetime posts, and many of these judges are young, meaning they will likely sit on the courts for decades.
Most are also members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization, and tend to have records of being hostile to abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, voting rights and the Affordable Care Act.
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