Bench Memos

ABA’s Flip on Vanessa Bryant

When Connecticut judge Vanessa Bryant was first nominated to a federal district judgeship in January 2006, the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary rated her “not qualified”.  Specifically, a “substantial majority” of the committee—10 to 13 of the 14 voting members—rated her “not qualified”, and a minority (1 to 4 members) rated her “qualified”.  (In cases like this where the committee divides, the majority rating is deemed the official rating.)

 

Following President Bush’s resubmission of Bryant’s nomination last month, the ABA committee yesterday flipped its rating, with a substantial majority rating Bryant qualified and a minority rating her not qualified.  (Here’s a story on the flip.  The story errs slightly in stating that a “majority” (which, in ABA committee jargon, is only 8 or 9 members) has now found her qualified.)   

 

What explains the new rating?

 

Well, it’s possible that changes in membership—7 of the 14 voting members appear to be new—account for the new rating.  It’s also possible that the higher rating reflects new information acquired over the past year.  But the most plausible explanation, I think, is that the ABA committee figured out that Bryant was going to be confirmed irrespective of the ABA’s “not qualified” rating and decided to try to save face and preserve the future impact of its negative ratings.

 

Ed Whelan — Ed Whelan is a leading commentator on nominations to the Supreme Court and the lower courts and on issues of constitutional law.

Most Popular

Elections

How Will the Senate Races Break?

How will the Senate races break? We have less public polling to go on than in recent years, so answering that question is harder than ever. But the news is more optimistic for Republicans than it was a month ago.   Waves and Breakers Four years ago, I projected in mid September that if “historical ... Read More
U.S.

The Media Fell for Elizabeth Warren’s Spin

Do you want to know what media bias looks like? Earlier today, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren released DNA test results that confirmed that she misled employers, students, and the public about her Native American heritage for years. Bizarrely, all too many members of the media treated the results as ... Read More
U.S.

Native Americans React to Warren’s DNA Test

Many in the Native American community reacted angrily Monday after Senator Elizabeth Warren released the results of a DNA test showing that she has a distant Native American ancestor. Warren has long said she is part Native American, prompting mockery from Republicans and President Trump, who nicknamed her ... Read More