Other controversial judicial nominees set for vote same day as Kavanaugh

The Senate Judiciary Committee is ...

Posted: Sep 28, 2018 2:08 PM
Updated: Sep 28, 2018 2:08 PM

The Senate Judiciary Committee is slated to vote on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court Friday morning — but he's not the only judge hoping for a positive outcome from the committee.

Nine additional judicial nominees of President Donald Trump also appear on the docket for Friday morning, eight of whom are up for federal district court seats and one who's up for a federal appeals court spot.

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While the controversy over sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, which he has repeatedly denied, came to a head during Thursday's fiery and emotional hearing, three other Trump judicial nominations are also controversial.

John M. O'Connor, nominee for district judge in Oklahoma

Trump nominated John M. O'Connor to be a district judge for the Northern, Eastern and Western Districts of Oklahoma in April, and last month the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary unanimously rated him "not qualified" in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The ABA panel conducts nonpartisan evaluations based on dozens of interviews with nominee peers and evaluations of legal writings.

In the letter, Paul Moxley, the attorney who chairs the ABA panel, wrote that O'Connor, who is a Tulsa attorney, was found to be "not qualified" in both professional competence and integrity.

"The consensus based on confidential peer review is that Mr. O'Connor lacks sufficient litigation experience, going to the depth and breadth of his law practice to date," Moxley wrote in the letter. "His judgment was also found to be deficient."

Moxley added, "The confidential peer review revealed several instances of ethical concerns, including candor with the court, evidence of overbilling of clients and billing practices criticized by courts, an improper ex parte communication with a court, and improper contact with adverse parties in litigation."

In response to the ABA's findings, O'Connor released a statement to the Tulsa World newspaper.

"Since 1995, I have received the highest peer ratings for ethics and competence as determined by a host of peer reviews, including the gold standard Martindale Hubbell AV Rating," he stated.

Both Republican senators from Oklahoma, Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, defended O'Connor from the rating as well. "In his 37 years of practice, John O'Connor has been known by all to be an attorney of the highest competence, honesty and integrity. He has received the highest possible ethical and legal rating from his peers during his decades of practice, and has been recognized for his continued service to community and civic organizations," Inhofe said in a statement.

"It is disappointing that the American Bar Association uses limited criteria when assessing nominees, but their opinion should not outweigh the fact that John had a successful appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. I look forward to a full and fair consideration of his nomination on the Senate floor soon."

Jonathan A. Kobes, nominee for the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals

Jonathan A. Kobes, an attorney for Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, was nominated in June and faced a heated hearing before the Judiciary Committee last month in which Democrats raised concerns over his lack of trial experience and statements on immigration.

Judiciary Committee Democrats inquired about a 2017 interview in which Kobes told a Dutch journalist that he thinks Republicans sometimes oppose immigration "because it waters down the culture." He said that opposition to immigration may be based on "fear" but said some criticisms against immigration are "legitimate." Kobes said in his hearing that he believed he was misquoted.

"As I indicated during my confirmation hearing on August 22, I do not believe that immigration 'waters down the culture.' I consider such arguments to be the sort of opposition to immigration that I referred to using such terms as 'unfair' and 'fear,' he responded in written questions.

The American Bar Association panel also found Kobes "not qualified" because he was unable to "provide sufficient writing samples of the caliber required to satisfy Committee members that he was capable of doing the work of a United States Circuit Court judge."

In response to Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono's questioning of his qualifications, Kobes defended his record.

"My experience is atypical. I have served in all three branches of government and I have significant and diverse real-world legal experience: as a prosecutor, a private-practice attorney, an in-house counsel, and an adviser to a United States senator. In my view, the breadth of my legal experience over the last 18 years uniquely qualifies me for a position on the Eighth Circuit."

Kenneth D. Bell, nominee for district judge in North Carolina

In April, Trump nominated Kenneth D. Bell, a former federal prosecutor and former Republican candidate for Congress in 1990, to be a district judge for the Western District of North Carolina.

In the last 15 years, Bell has given over $10,000 to Republican candidates. Bell also faced scrutiny by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California for allegedly using $4,976.84 of his 1990 campaign funds for mortgage and automobile payments. Bell said at the time in the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the payment was "really just a matter of accounting," because he had loaned $20,000 to the campaign.

Bell testified before the Judiciary Committee last month that by the end of his unsuccessful election campaign, he had loaned $45,000 to the campaign fund, and did not remember being reimbursed for those funds.

Several Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee levied criticism of a 2016 op-ed written by Bell, in which he made a case for the prosecution of Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

After fielding a question by Hirono on the op-ed, Bell doubled down on his position.

"My opinion that reasonable prosecutors would indict was based on nearly 18 years as an assistant United States attorney, 10 of which I served as first assistant United States attorney under both Democrat and Republican appointed United States attorneys."

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