President Trump has nominated Judge Justin Walker for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the nation’s second most important court. Walker, age 37, serves on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. He has been on that court for about half a year.
The American Bar Association rated Walker “unqualified” when he was nominated for the district court position. To the extent, if any, that the ABA wasn’t engaged in raw partisanship, its rating presumably was based on the fact that Walker had never tried a case.
Trial experience is relevant in considering a nominee for a trial court. However, it has little bearing on the qualifications of an appeals court judge — the position Walker now has been tapped for. In any event, Walker has now presided over federal trials.
Walker is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where he served on the law review. He clerked for Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C Circuit (a reminder of how “newly minted” Walker is) and for Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court.
After his clerkships, Walker worked for a top law firm in D.C. (Gibson Dunn), maintained a solo practice in Louisville, and then joined the faculty of the University of Louisville Law School. Walker’s conservative credentials include substantial contributions to the Federalist Society. He served on the executive board of the Harvard chapter as a student and on the executive board of the Louisville chapter before becoming a judge.
Walker has the strong backing of Senate Majority Leader McConnell. Reportedly, McConnell has known Walker since he interviewed the Senator for his high school newspaper.
I assume it was through McConnell’s influence that Walker jumped to the head of the line for the coveted spot on the D.C. Circuit. Walker is qualified for the job (whatever the ABA ends up saying) and he’s a solid conservative, as noted. However, Trump could have nominated someone with more appellate experience, greater familiarity with the issues the D.C. Circuit tends to hear, and a longer conservative track record.
But Walker is the nominee and he’s qualified. Absent unexpected revelations (and I don’t mean unsubstantiated claims about a high school party), the Senate should confirm Walker.