The ABA — privileged partisans

Ed Whelan makes a compelling case that the Senate Judiciary Committee should displace the strongly left-leaning ABA from its privileged role in the judicial-confirmation process. Currently, a hearing on a nominee generally will not take place until the ABA has delivered its rating. As a result, notes Whelan, nominees have had to extend special favors to the ABA that no other outside group receives, such as submitting to confidential interviews and providing personal information.

The ABA defends its privileged status by asserting that its Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary, which rates federal judicial nominees, is independent of the rest of the organization and acts impartially. In fact, though, the ABA president has unchecked power in making appointments to the Standing Committee and, as Ed once again demonstrates, outgoing president Michael Greco, a vituperative critic of President Bush, has abused that power by stacking the committee with leftist partisans.

The result has been considerable mischief. For example, Myrna Tucker, a feminist divorce lawyer and Hillary Clinton crony appointed by Greco to the Standing Committee, engineered a supplemental evaluation of the nomination of senior White House aide Brett Kavanaugh to the D.C. Circuit which resulted in a down-grading of Kavanaugh’s rating from “well qualified” to “qualified.” That change, in turn, fueled the campaign by Senate Democrats to block Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Even more scandalously, the ABA issued a “not qualified” rating to Michael Wallace, an attorney with outstanding credentials including a Supreme Court clerkship for the William Rehnquist. According to Ed, when Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter asked the ABA representative to share with the Committee, on a confidential basis, the report on Wallace that was circulated to ABA committee members, the ABA rep declined, telling Specter — falsely — that the ABA had fully apprised Wallace of the negative allegations it relied on. The ABA also promised to submit its testimony on Wallace at least 48 hours in advance. But when Specter scheduled a hearing on Wallace’s nomination, the ABA did not submit its testimony until less than 24 hours before the hearing. As a result, Specter postponed the hearing.

Moreover, as Ed shows, the testimony itself (which the ABA tried to keep secret until its witness testified) makes it clear that Wallace’s “not qualified” rating is based on the fact that he has taken legal positions that the liberal responsible for rating him doesn’t like and, worse yet, positions that Wallace took in a case agaisnt a liberal interest group on whose board the rater serves. The rater thus was required to assess the weight and credibility of comments made by those associated with the same left-wing group for which she serves as a trustee.

Chairman Specter has rejected the ABA’s rating of Wallace and has teed up the broader question of whether the ABA should continue to enjoy its privileged role in the confirmation process. Clearly it should not.

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