US Law Week

Trump’s ‘Not Qualified’ Nominee Closer to Confirmation (Corrected)

Aug. 23, 2018, 4:03 PM; Updated: Aug. 24, 2018, 6:01 PM

The Senate won’t slow down on confirming judicial nominees as August comes to a close, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Aug. 23.

Senate Republicans moved to limit debate on 12 of President Donald Trump’s federal district court nominees Aug. 22, including one whose work ethic has been criticized by the American Bar Association.

The Senate will “work right through August until every single one of them is confirmed,” McConnell said.

The ABA rated one of the nominees, Magistrate Judge Charles Barnes Goodwin, as “not qualified” in November. Trump nominated Goodwin to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.

Goodwin’s “work habits, including his frequent absence from the courthouse until mid-afternoon,” raised doubts among a majority of the members of the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, according to a letter from the committee’s past chairperson.

Goodwin was the first district court nominee to receive a not qualified rating since the ABA ranked three such nominees between 2005 and 2006 as not qualified. John O’Connor, another district court nominee from Oklahoma, recently became the fourth.

Despite the rating, Goodwin is likely to be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Another ‘Not Qualified’

Trump nominated O’Connor to the Northern, Eastern, and Western Districts of Oklahoma.

O’Connor “lacks sufficient litigation experience,” and his judgment was “found to be deficient,” ABA chair Paul Moxley said in a letter Aug. 21.

A confidential peer review of the nominee “revealed several instances of ethical concerns,” including “evidence of overbilling of clients and billing practices criticized by courts,” Moxley said.

Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) criticized the rating.

“Since 1995, O’Connor has received an ‘AV’ Anonymous Peer Review Rating with Martindale-Hubbell, which is described as the highest ethical and legal ability rating based upon the ratings of his peers,” Lankford said.

Further, the ABA denied O’Connor due process by not allowing him to respond to its criticism, Lankford said.

Judicial Vacancies

There are currently 126 district court vacancies, for which 73 nominees are pending.

Fifty-five of the vacancies are classified as “judicial emergencies” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Republicans moved to limit debate on 11 nominees in addition to Goodwin:

  • R. Stan Baker, nominated to the Southern District of Georgia;
  • James R. Sweeney II, nominated to the Southern District of Indiana;
  • Susan Paradise Baxter, nominated to the Western District of Pennsylvania;
  • Marilyn Jean Horan, nominated to the Western District of Pennsylvania;
  • William F. Jung, nominated to the Middle District of Florida;
  • Barry W. Ashe, nominated to the Eastern District of Louisiana;
  • Terry Fitzgerald Moorer, nominated to the Southern District of Alabama;
  • Dominic W. Lanza, nominated to the District of Arizona;
  • Robert R. Summerhays, nominated to the Western District of Louisiana;
  • Charles J. Williams, nominated to the Northern District of Iowa; and
  • Alan Albright, nominated to the Western District of Texas.
(Corrected number of district court nominees rated "not qualified")

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick L. Gregory in Washington at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com

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