Sen. Sasse Dismantles ABA as Neutral Arbiter of Judicial Qualifications

On the Senate floor last week, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse demolished the idea that the American Bar Association (ABA) is a neutral and impartial arbiter of judicial qualifications, highlighting their biased treatment of Eighth Circuit nominee Steve Grasz:

Unfortunately, over the last few days in this body, it's become clear that some of us are tempted to outsource our constitutional duties to an outside organization. That organization, the American Bar Association, purports to be a neutral arbiter but is frankly twisting its ratings process to drive a political agenda in an important nomination pending before this body. I'm referring specifically to the smear campaign of the ABA against Steve Grasz, a qualified public servant who has been nominated by the President to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Steve Grasz has decades of honorable service in Nebraska, including more than a decade as the Chief Deputy Attorney General of my state. Mr. Grasz is in fact eminently qualified for the circuit court bench, as has been testified to by Republicans and Democrats across our state. But let's set the scene first for the ABA's silly decision earlier this week to announce that they regard Steve Grasz as not qualified. I'll highlight three specific items.  

First, we should discuss the two people who interviewed Mr. Grasz and recognize that, unfortunately, they are blatant partisans with a sad track record of hackery. Second, the ABA Is trying to paint Mr. Grasz as an extremist simply because he did his job as the Chief Deputy Attorney General of Nebraska and defended Nebraskans and Nebraska laws that wanted to outlaw the most barbaric of abortion practices — partial-birth abortion. Third, we should talk about the obvious bigotry of cultural liberals evident in their interview process of Mr. Grasz when they asked him repeated questions about nonlegal matters that had nothing to do with the claims of competence of the ABA. 

The ABA's questions and manner of questioning tellingly revealed their bias, in a way that is astounding for an organization of lawyers who should have learned to ask better, more precise, clearer, more on-point questions in the first year of law school:

Third, I know that the ABA has an august-sounding name, but here's the reality of the kinds of stuff they did in their interview of Mr. Grasz. They asked him, “What kind of schools do your kids go to?” I don't really understand the connection to their legal interview, and when they found out that his kids attended a religious institution, they asked him why they would go to a religious institution. Well, it turns out in my state, lots and lots of Lutherans and Catholics and lots of non-Lutherans and Catholics send their kids to Lutheran and Catholic schools. I don’t know what that has to do with someone’s competence, man or woman, to sit as an objective judge on a court of appeals, and yet the interviewers decided they should go there.  

Then they began to refer to Mr. Grasz repeatedly in the interview as "You people." They would frame questions to him and ask about “You people”. At one point, he finally paused and said, “Can you tell me who ‘you people’ are?” because at this point, he didn't know if it was pro-life people, people who send their kids to religious schools, maybe just Nebraskans. They informed him that they were using the term "You people" to mean conservatives or Republicans. 

The ABA continues to deliver "not qualified" ratings for President Trump's nominees, not for any defect in their careers, qualifications, or legal scholarship but because they happen to belong to the dastardly "you people."  Of course, Senate Democrats tout the "not qualified" ratings while ignoring when nominees like now-Justice Neil Gorsuch receive the "gold standard" of a unanimously well qualified rating.  Thankfully Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and  Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley are willing to overlook the ABA's pettiness and still consider these excellent nominees.