The American Bar Association Just Exposed Its Bias Against Believers

Nov. 1, 2019
Bob Adelmann

Despite its claim to be unbiased, the ABA exposed the canard by declaring an eminently qualified nominee as "not qualified" for a seat on the Ninth Circuit Court.

The group claimed to be unbiased in its letter to Senate leaders on Tuesday concerning Lawrence VanDyke, a Trump nominee to the Ninth Circuit: "The Committee's work is based solely on a review of integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament." Nevertheless, despite VanDyke's impressive CV, "a majority of the Committee has determined that Mr. VanDyke is "Not Qualified" … to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit."

How is such a conclusion possible?

It didn't matter that VanDyke served as solicitor general for both Montana and Nevada. It didn't matter that he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law or that he served as an editor for the Harvard Law Review. It didn't matter than he argued over 20 appeals in the federal circuit courts, including the Ninth Circuit, and has been the counsel of record on 28 briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court. It didn't matter that he is, according to Carrie Severino (chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network and also a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law), "one of the standout appellate litigators of his generation."

It didn't matter that Adam Laxalt, the former Attorney General of Nevada, has high praise for VanDyke: "I can assure you there is no more qualified person for our Ninth Circuit seat than Lawrence VanDyke. I say this after daily personal interaction with him for many years. He has the experience, the integrity, and the judicial temperament to make him the most outstanding candidate put forward in a generation."

It didn't matter that Montana's Attorney General holds the same high opinion of VanDyke, saying "He has the intelligence, experience, fairness, and diligence to be a great addition to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals."

What did matter is that VanDyke is a conservative Christian who gave many pro bono hours of service to the First Liberty Institute. First Liberty is, according to its critics, a Christian-right organization with a strong anti-LGBT agenda. In other words First Liberty believes in God's word when it comes to same-sex marriage and related issues.

For this, VanDyke won the admiration of First Liberty's general counsel, Hiram Sasser, who said "I have had the good fortune to work alongside Lawrence VanDyke in support of religious freedom. He volunteered significant pro bono hours defending the First Amendment alongside Liberty First Institute. He is a compassionate man with a brilliant intellect."


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That endorsement, plus an op-ed that VanDyke wrote 15 years ago while still a law student, turned the ABA against him. In that editorial, VanDyke wrote that same-sex marriage would "hurt families and consequentially children and society." When Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked VanDyke about that op-ed during his confirmation hearing, VanDyke responded: "My personal views have definitely changed since 2004" and maintained that, in any case, his opinion would not intrude upon his decisions as judge on the Ninth Circuit.

This was duly noted in the letter from the ABA:

Some interviewees raised concerns about whether Mr. VanDyke would be fair to persons who are gay, lesbian, or otherwise part of the LGBTQ community. Mr. VanDyke would not say affirmatively that he would be fair to any litigant before him, notably members of the LGBTQ community.

The blatant bias of the ABA enraged Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah): "The time has come, Mr. Chairman, to suspend the unique access that the American Bar Association has, until such time as a thorough investigation and review is undertaken to inquire into how these [investigative] functions are performed." Until then, said Senator Josh Hawley (R-Ind.), the committee in charge of confirming nominees should consider the ABA as nothing more than another liberal "special interest group."

All it takes for a nominee to be "disqualified" by the ABA for the bench these days is even a suggestion that God's word would inform their decisions. Happily the Senate Judiciary Committee has already confirmed more than a dozen other judicial nominees who were rated "not qualified" by the ABA, increasingly ignoring the group's bias.

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An Ivy League graduate and former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at badelmann@thenewamerican.com.

Sources:

World News Daily: American Bar Association attack on Trump nominee backfires

CNN: 'Not qualified' rating and accusation from American Bar Association moves Trump nominee to tears

The Hill: Judicial nominee breaks down amid question about attitude toward LGBT people

Washington Post: Trump judicial nominee cries over scathing letter from the American Bar Association

Fox News: Trump judicial pick breaks down in tears at hearing over legal group's attack

The Wall Street Journal: The ABA Strikes Again

The Wall Street Journal: Another Smear Campaign From the American Bar Association

National Review: Another Self-Inflicted Wound for the ABA

Fox News: Hiram Sasser: Trump judicial pick in tears – Left has again deployed lies, smears to destroy a nominee

ABA Journal: ABA committee gives 'not qualified' rating to 9th Circuit nominee said to have 'entitlement temperament'

The ABA: The "disqualifying" letter from the ABA

Background on Lawrence vanDyke

Townhall: The American Bar Association Has Just 'Outdone Itself' With Anti-Conservative Bias, Says Judicial Group

National Review: The ABA Has Outdone Itself Rating Lawrence VanDyke 'Not Qualified'

Background on First Liberty Institute, whose general counsel is Hiram Sasser

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