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Is It Amateur Hour For Federal Judicial Nominees?

What do we need in trial judges? Honesty. Integrity. Fairness. Respect for both the law and the citizens standing before them. Legal Scholarship. Those are all necessary to make a good trial judge. What else is important? Courtroom experience. At least, a basic level of courtroom experience is necessary. At least, tell us you have been in a courtroom!

I handle personal injury and damage cases across northern Alabama. We are fortunate in our local state courts. We currently have a good bench of state judges who came to their positions with an understanding of the process. Most of them came to the bench after serving as lawyers before their local courts.

I can say the same for the men and women I’ve appeared before in Federal Court. They have been well-qualified. And, they take their roles as judges very seriously. As citizens, we count on them to be fair and skilled in their work. They understand their position and work hard to fulfill it. That is true whether these judges were appointed by a past Republican President or past Democrat President. Like our state court judges, most of them came to the bench after working as lawyers in their respective Federal Districts.

I am very hesitant to criticize any judicial candidate. But, a couple of our current President’s potential new appointees are so unqualified, I had to speak.

The lack of experience with a few of the President’s new appointees is beyond shocking. Don’t take my word for it. Watch the video below. The video below shows part of the hearing for one recent nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The lack of qualifications is outrageous. The Republican Senator questioning this nominee asks basic questions. The questions are not partisan. They are not difficult (for a qualified candidate). They represent basic, minimal standards that should apply to all judges. As you watch the video, remember this is a position for someone who will make tremendous decisions affecting people in court. And, this is a lifetime appointment to our judiciary.

Let me sum it up after watching this video. This specific candidate has no real courtroom experience, zero.

  • Never tried a case to verdict (in any courtroom).
  • Never tried a jury trial.
  • Never tried a bench trial.
  • Never taken a deposition by himself. (Depositions are the backbone of discovery and trial preparation in civil cases.).
  • Never argued ANY motion in ANY state court.
  • Never argued ANY motion in ANY Federal court.
  • Cannot remember when he last reviewed any of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (These rules govern pre-trial litigation in Federal courts. I have a copy within arm’s reach from my desk.).
  • Cannot discuss the Daubert standard for expert witnesses. (This standard governs how judges assess experts and whether they will be allowed to testify at trial. These issues can make or break cases.).
  • Cannot explain a MotionĀ in Limine. (These standard pre-trial motions determine important evidentiary issues outside the presence of a jury. These motions can also make or break cases.).

What is worse here? Is it that we have a completely unqualified candidate for a judgeship? OR. Is it that this candidate did not even study for his own confirmation hearing? C’mon! You want to be a Federal Judge. Maybe you could check the dictionary for workable definitions of everyday legal terms before appearing at your hearing. On either level, we deserve better in our judges and our courts. Our current judges who are dedicated to their position deserve better in a co-worker.

This is not the only completely unqualified judicial appointment made by the current President. Recently, the President withdrew his nominee for a position as a judge in the Middle District of Alabama. That Alabama candidate also had NEVER tried a case. And, the American Bar Association had unanimously rated that candidate as UNQUALIFIED.

I understand Presidents usually appoint someone from their own political party. That’s our system and my current criticisms are not partisan. Both parties possess many well-qualified candidates who understand the law, who know how a courtroom works and who will work hard to be fair in the cases before them. We don’t have a shortage of good potential picks. We need leadership that cares about our courts and their necessary role in administering justice. This is an essential issue to my clients who deserve a fair day in court by a judge who knows how to run his or her courtroom.


At the Blackwell Law Firm, we represent people across Alabama in cases of serious personal injury and damage. We believe lawyers should prepare their cases for trial. We do. Outside of court, we continue to advocate for important legal and safety issues. If you have a legal question, give us a call. Consultations are always free and confidential. We are happy to answer your questions.