Kenneth K. Lee is President Trump’s nominee to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Lee is well-qualified for the job. He clerked for Judge Emilio Garza of the Fifth Circuit; served as Associate White House Counsel to President George W. Bush and as special counsel on the United States Senate Judiciary Committee; and now is a partner at a prestigious law firm. In addition, he has taught law as an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University Law School.
Lee’s nomination faces opposition from Democrats, as all nominations of conservatives to courts at this level do. As has become their custom, the Dems are focusing Lee’s writings as a college student.
Most of the writings objected to by the Democrats involve race. In these writings Lee opposes, occasionally in immature terms, racial segregation and racial preferences on campus and, more generally, identity politics and the culture of victimization. Lee, whose family moved to the U.S. from South Korea when he was four, did not believe in these things as a college student. Hopefully, he still doesn’t believe in them.
He does, however, believe in mentoring young attorneys, and has been commended for mentoring African-American lawyers at his firm. He is an active member of the firm’s diversity and inclusion committee. In addition, he has provided free representation to African-Americans in cases involving the criminal justice system.
On this record, Democrats will probably be unable to block Lee because of his views (past or present) on matters of race, or because of his college writings generally.
But the left never gives up, so it has come up with another angle on Lee’s college writings. It attacks him for not disclosing some of them.
Those of us who didn’t write much for public consumption when we were young may not understand the great difficulty those who did have in remembering and/or finding every article they produced. The task is sufficiently challenging that there are firms that provide this service to nominees.
Even these specialists sometimes are unable to find everything. I know of a case in which such a firm missed a number of articles its client wrote decades earlier.
It’s easy to understand why. The publication may be defunct. Defunct or not, it’s unlikely to be digitized.
In Ken Lee’s case, this was true of two publications he wrote for in his youth: the Cornell Review and Heterodoxy. As I understand it, the latter is defunct and the former is not digitized.
In his original disclose, Lee included a goodly amount of his student writing — enough to raise the hackles of his leftist opponents. However, the initial disclosure was incomplete. When Lee learned of articles that were not disclosed, he informed the Judiciary Committee of these writings. Apparently, he still wasn’t able to find a few additional articles that later were uncovered.
So what? It’s absurd enough to oppose a nominee because of positions he took in his writings as a college student. It’s ridiculous to oppose a nominee because he is unable to locate all of his ancient writings in the time allowed him by the Senate.
Republicans should confirm Ken Lee. Doing so will not only put a well-qualified nominee on the bench, but also strike a blow against the Democratic gamesmanship when it comes to college writing by nominees.
If the Democrats choose to engage in these shenanigans as a fundraising tool, there’s nothing Republicans can do to stop them. But they should never allow the shenanigans to derail a nominee.