“Have any of you not tried a case to verdict?” seems like a strange question to be asking a panel of federal judicial nominees, but this is the standard now for Donald Trump’s chosen picks.
Trump recently nominated and then withdrew the nomination of a third-year lawyer who had never tried a case. But he wasn’t done, and yesterday, a second nominee who has never tried a case to the federal bench—Matthew S. Petersen, current chairman of the Federal Elections Commission—revealed just how badly suited he is for the role.
On Thursday night, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island shared a clip of his colleague, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, grilling Petersen on his experience during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. It is as embarrassing as it is painful:
So, just to recap, because there’s a lot going on in this clip: Petersen, whom Trump nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for DC, has never:
- Tried a case to verdict in a court room.
- Tried a jury trial.
- Tried a civil case.
- Tried a criminal case.
- Tried a case in state or federal court.
- Deposed someone by himself.
- Argued a motion in state or federal court.
I’m not a lawyer, but something tells me that this guy is wholly unqualified for a lifetime appointment. Curiously, however, the American Bar Association deemed Petersen a “qualified” candidate while two of Trump’s nominees that have since been withdrawn were given “not qualified” ratings.
It’s true that Petersen and the other four nominees interviewed in the clip have also never blogged in defense of the Ku Klux Klan —unlike Brett Talley, whose nomination was ultimately canned after his KKK-sympathizing Alabama fan forum posts were unearthed in November. So at least there’s that?
It’s also worth reemphasizing that Petersen is the chairman of the Federal Elections Commission.