A Trump nominee for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals broke down in tears during his Wednesday confirmation hearing after being cast as an anti-gay bigot in a letter from the American Bar Association.
The letter stating the ABA’s opposition to Lawrence VanDyke’s confirmation was read during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The ABA, which has come under fire from conservatives over its alleged bias against Trump appointees, reached its conclusion after conducting interviews of over sixty people into VanDyke’s conduct.
“Mr. VanDyke’s accomplishments are offset by the assessments of interviewees that Mr. VanDyke is arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to-day practice including procedural rules,” wrote William C. Hubbard, the chair of the ABA’s standing committee on the federal judiciary.
“Mr. VanDyke would not say affirmatively that he would be fair to any litigant before him, notably members of the LGBTQ community,” the letter continues.
“I do not believe that,” VanDyke said, failing to hold back tears. “It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God,” and added that “they should all be treated with dignity and respect.”
The attorney who evaluated VanDyke, Marcia Davenport, contributed to an election opponent of VanDyke when the latter ran for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court in 2014.
“The ABA is a liberal dark-money group, fronting for trial lawyers who donate millions of dollars to Democratic politicians,” commented Mike Davis, a lawyer who runs the Article III Project, which supports Trump judicial nominees, and who served as chief counsel for then-Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley.
“If this man is not qualified, I don’t know who is,” said Utah senator Mike Lee in response to the allegations against VanDyke.
The ABA has termed several Trump appointees “not qualified” for their positions. One of those, Judge Jonathan Kobes of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was barely confirmed after Vice President Mike Pence gave the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.
“No one who looks seriously at instances of the ABA’s negative assessments of conservative candidates—especially on the malleable topic of judicial temperament—can dispute that the ABA’s liberal bias sometimes comes into play,” said Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center to Bloomberg in 2018.