Today was likely one of the last “controversial” hearings for a judicial nominee for President Trump’s first term. Judge Justin Walker was before the committee as a nominee to the DC Circuit. However, much of the Democrats' potential fire was taken away before the hearing even started. Yesterday, the American Bar Association (ABA), the self-proclaimed "gold standard" of Senate Democrats, rated Judge Walker "Well Qualified." Judge Walker had previously been rated "not qualified" by the ABA, due to his being just short of the required number of post-law school years of experience.
Senator Cory Booker did not even bother to ask a question but instead in the words of Ashley Baker of the Committee for Justice gave a “sermon.” The worst example of this sort of thing happened before the hearing when the liberal group Demand Justice filed an ethics complaint against the retiring Judge Thomas Griffith, whom Walker is slated to replace. As National Review wrote:
A judge who is retiring in order to care for his very ill wife is instead baselessly accused of doing so in exchange for a bribe. That, alas, is par for the course for the left-wing group Demand Justice and its lead henchman Brian Fallon. . . . .
Yesterday NPR reported Griffith’s own account of his decision to retire: he made the decision a year ago, in June 2019; he informed his family and law clerks at the time; he faced no political pressure to step down; and his wife’s “debilitating chronic illness” was the “sole reason” for his retirement. None of this could have come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the D.C. Circuit. Among other things, Griffith hadn’t hired clerks for the coming year, and Griffith has worked extensively from home for years in order to care for his wife. That’s why it had long been widely expected that Griffith would step down.
At the hearing itself Democrats continued to posture and, as Tom Jipping points out, misunderstand the fundamental role of a judge.
Hearing today on appeals court nom showed how the Left views judges. They believe judges decide cases based on personal views, so any view or belief ever predicts how a nominee will rule as a judge. This replace impartial justice with political power and it's very dangerous.— Thomas Jipping (@TomJipping) May 6, 2020
Of course, that was the case for the “better” senators. As Carrie Severino points out, Senator Mazie Hirono's behavior remains unbecoming of a lawyer or senator:
I lost track of how many times @maziehirono interrupted Judge Walker during her questioning of him. And then when Chairman Graham gave him extra time to respond she interrupted that. He is the witness, Senator, please let him answer.— Carrie Severino (@JCNSeverino) May 6, 2020
On the substance, Judge Walker showed a commanding knowledge of the law and facts. As Carrie Severino pointed out:
Justin Walker was outstanding in his hearing today, talking about all of the things that someone who respects the rule of law should: the importance of originalism and separation of powers, the limited role a judge, and the importance of protecting individual liberty. (1/3)— Carrie Severino (@JCNSeverino) May 6, 2020
A few more of our tweets on the substance of the hearings:
Judge Walker: Vertical separation of powers protects against concentration of power in any one place, and that is one of our Constitution's greatest protections for liberty. #ConfirmWalker— RNLA (@TheRepLawyer) May 6, 2020
Judge Walker: Separation of powers protects liberty, probably no more important protection of liberty. Tyrannies have beautiful bills of rights but concentrate power in one person, so person in power is free to ignore rights. #ConfirmWalker— RNLA (@TheRepLawyer) May 6, 2020
Judge Walker: Freedom to worship is one of the audacious ideas in our Constitution. Founders decided that no matter who or what someone worshipped, they would be equal in the eyes of the law. #ConfirmWalker— RNLA (@TheRepLawyer) May 6, 2020
We highlighted one of Judge Walker’s “controversial” decisions enjoining the mayor of a Kentucky town from preventing “drive-in” worship. Judge Walker explained that decision in detail during the hearing.
Judge Walker: I made the decision in the KY Easter drive-in case because that is what the law required. In explaining the meaning of the free exercise clause, I needed to explain the history of the free exercise clause.— RNLA (@TheRepLawyer) May 6, 2020
Judge Walker showed why he will be a great addition to the DC Circuit. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted:
“Since Judge Walker was tapped to serve the people of Kentucky on the federal district bench, he’s wasted no time in expanding his strong reputation for intellectual brilliance, legal acumen, and total fairness and impartiality. In just the last few weeks, Judge Walker has won national attention for an eloquent and persuasive opinion that forcefully defended Kentuckians’ basic First Amendment freedom of religion, and he has earned a ‘well-qualified’ rating from the left-leaning American Bar Association that Senate Democrats like my friend the Democratic Leader describe as ‘the gold standard.’ … I am confident our colleagues on the committee will find this nominee possesses a generational legal mind, a kind heart, and total judicial impartiality. President Trump made an outstanding choice when he asked this Kentuckian to take his public service to the next level. I am confident Judge Walker will not disappoint.”