Commentary

Another editorial pleads with Burr, Tillis to end ideological attack on federal courts

Sen. Thom Tillis, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Sen. Richard Burr

As Clayton Henkel noted yesterday, the Winston-Salem Journal published a strong editorial blasting Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis for supporting Donald Trump’s “woefully bad” nominee for federal judge in North Carolina’s Eastern District, Raleigh lawyer Thomas Farr, This morning, a Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com offers a follow-up in which it takes the two senators to task for their general approach to advancing Trump judicial nominees.

In “Burr, Tillis must set higher standards for judicial nominees,” it’s noted that the two senators’ ideological crusade has led them stoop so low as to even support three court nominees rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. Here’s the conclusion to the editorial:

It is extremely rare for a presidential nominee to receive a “not qualified” rating — just six of Trump’s 159 picks. But Burr and Tillis have voted for three who have come to the Senate for roll calls.

Two of those, most recently Jonathan Kobes in the Eight Judicial District Court of Appeals and earlier Stephen Grasz (of the same district appeals court) got critical votes from Burr and Tillis that provided the margin of victory. Grasz was approved 50-48 while Kobes, who won approval earlier this week, was approved 51-50 – with Vice President Mike Pence casting the history-making tie-breaker vote.

Kobes, who was general counsel to U.S. Sen. Mike Round, R-.S.D., couldn’t provide examples of his legal writing that were “reflective of complex legal analysis, knowledge of the law, or ability to write about complex matters in a clear and cogent manner – qualities that are essential for a circuit court judge,” said Paul T. Moxley, chair of the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.

What defense is there to support a nominee the ABA deems unqualified? It is not an ideology issue. It is not that these nominees possess some unique qualification that somehow the ABA is overlooking (other than chummy connections with powerful Republicans).

Mere competence is not an excessive qualification for a lifetime appointment to critical job.

When it comes to administering justice, Burr and Tillis aren’t doing the job for the North Carolinians who put them in office. They need to demand more of judicial nominees than a pleasingly partisan resume and fealty to Donald Trump.

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