For years, trials have been in decline in American courts: only 1-2% of all cases filed will eventually make it to a jury or bench trial. This decline has also meant fewer opportunities for young lawyers to sharpen their courtroom skills.
The ABA Section of Litigation has initiated a new program to give those young lawyers more courtroom experience, and the ABA’s Judicial Division has signed on. These changes cannot, by themselves, reverse all the trends that have moved litigation away from trial outcomes. But given the continued importance of trials in the American legal system, they are still welcome developments.
There are more than 100 openings on the federal district courts, most of which will be filled by nominees who have never held judicial office. A strong early rating from the ABA would not only smooth the confirmation process, but would send a positive signal to the public.
President Trump has apparently decided not to invite the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Judiciary to review the professional qualifications of his lower federal judicial nominees, stating that “the administration does ‘not intend to give any professional organizations special access to our nominees.'” This move is not unprecedented, but it is deeply short-sighted.
Continue reading “The President’s unforced error on ABA vetting”
The comments came during a panel discussion at the ABA’s white collar conference in Miami.
My earlier thoughts on this issue here.
The Wall Street Journal posted a nice article this weekend on the role of the American bar Association in reviewing and rating federal judicial nominees. (I was quoted, which was also nice!) It gives a good summary of the ABA’s rating process and the history behind it.
The ABA ratings have had their share of controversy, and in an age where everything is increasingly politicized, we should not be surprised if controversy continues. But the ABA’s overt avoidance of political/policy questions, and deliberate focus on the qualities everyone would expect of a good judge (appropriate demeanor, high level of competence, intelligence and legal skills, etc.) make it a worthwhile addition to the overall vetting process. Nor is the ABA alone: similar criteria are used by state judicial nominating commissions across the country.
The ABA’s involvement also underscores an oddity of federal judicial selection: almost everyone gets a say in the timing and substance of judicial nominations except the courts themselves. I’m hard pressed to think of another sizeable organization that is so constrained in hiring its core employees.
If you hit a subscription wall, a PDF of the article is here.