“Not Qualified” is the New Qualification

PetersenTrump is lately having a hell of a time getting his nominees confirmed for important judicial assignments. Perhaps if his team nominated people who knew how to correctly spell “law” given three chances, he’d have better luck. The recent losers in the usually rubber-stamped Senate confirmation process include Brett Talley (never tried a case, lauded the KKK, failed to mention he’s married to the chief of staff for Trump’s White House counsel) and Jeffrey Mateer (responded to a transgender’s lawsuit by noting “it just shows you how Satan’s plan is working and the destruction that is going on.”) Other potential nominee losers include Damien Schiff who called Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy a “judicial prostitute,” and Thomas Farr who worked to suppress the black vote in North Carolina. Truly class acts.

(In Trump’s favor, the Senate did confirm Leonard Steven Grasz to serve on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals despite being rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. Since 1988, no president has even nominated someone rated “not qualified” except George W. Bush and Trump.)

Perhaps the most egregious of Trump’s rogue’s gallery of nitwit nominees is Matthew Petersen, a commissioner with the useless, toothless Federal Election Commission. Petersen was nominated by Trump’s crack staff for a district court judgeship. You know, the kind of dude who sits in a bench wearing a black robe and running trials. Presumably Petersen believed the stamp that is rubber would press lightly upon him, providing him frictionless passage to a fancy promotion. Unfortunately for him, a Republican on the Judiciary Committee, John Kennedy who considers juris prudence something of import chose to challenge the “honorable” Matthew Petersen just a smidge. Here’s some of the painful back and forth.

KENNEDY: Mr. Petersen, have you ever tried a jury trial?
PETERSEN: I have not.
KENNEDY: Criminal?
KENNEDY: State or federal court?
PETERSEN: I have not.
KENNEDY: Have you ever tried a — taken a deposition by yourself?
PETERSEN: I believe not — no.
KENNEDY: Okay. Have you ever argued a motion in state court?
PETERSEN: I have not.
KENNEDY: Have you ever argued a motion in federal court?
KENNEDY: Well, as a trial judge, you’re obviously going to have witnesses. Can you tell me what the Daubert standard is?
PETERSEN: Sen. Kennedy, I don’t have that readily at my disposal but I would be happy to take a closer look at that. That is not something I’ve had to contend with.
KENNEDY: Do you know what a motion in limine is?
PETERSEN: I would probably not be able to give you a good definition right here at the table.
KENNEDY: Do you know what the Younger abstention doctrine is?
PETERSEN: I’ve heard of it, but I, again —
KENNEDY: How about the Pullman abstention doctrine?

Watch Petersen face the “murder board.”

By the way, the ABA had not rated Petersen “not qualified” – a position that is likely to change soon.

Unfortunately for viewers, video of Petersen’s testimony was cut short, but the transcript of the rest of Kennedy’s grilling was captured on tape.

KENNEDY: Who would you cite as someone that inspired you to pursue law?
PETERSEN: I liked Perry Mason until he had to use a wheelchair. Then I really got into law and such when I started watching Wapner. Big Fan. Judge Judy is another of my heroes – especially when she told that guy who stole his mother’s lawnmower that he’d be cutting grass in hell. Of course, that’s if grass could even grow in hell.
KENNEDY: Do you know what nolo contendere is?
PETERSEN: Fraid not.
KENNEDY: How about habeas corpus?
KENNEDY: Do you know what subpoenas are?
PETERSEN: I believe that’s a smaller penis that grows below the main penis.
KENNEDY: If a prosecutor became strident with a witness, how would you handle it?
KENNEDY: Have you ever tried a capital case?
PETERSEN: No, but I’ve seen “My Cousin Vinnie” six times. Marissa Tomei is the best piece of ass.
KENNEDY: Pardon me?
PETERSEN: Sorry, only President-for-Life Trump can do that – I hope.

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