Lawrence J.C. VanDyke openly wept on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee as he was confronted with a blistering review from the American Bar Association, which found that he was not qualified to serve on the federal courts after having been nominated by President Donald Trump.
The ABA, which can’t officially block nominees but whose recommendations are seen as carrying substantial weight, wrote of VanDyke:
Mr. VanDyke’s accomplishments are offset by the assessments of interviewees that Mr. VanDyke is arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to-day practice including procedural rules. There was a theme that the nominee lacks humility, has an “entitlement” temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful.
It also said some people interviewed in the assessment of VanDyke worried that he would not be “fair to
persons who are gay, lesbian, or otherwise part of the LGBTQ community.”
When confronted with these findings, which had been made public the previous night, VanDyke became emotional in the middle of the hearing and began crying. His face turned red.
Lawrence VanDyke brought to tears because of the shameful and false accusation by the @ABAesq that he holds animus toward the LGBT community. Thank you to @SenHawleyPress for highlighting this injustice. The ABA has lost all credibility for trying to destroy this good man’s life. pic.twitter.com/4ARyHvw3Zu
— Gregory T. Angelo (@gregorytangelo) October 30, 2019
“I do not believe that,” VanDyke said, referring to criticism of his views of LGBT people, according to CNN. “It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God.” He added that he thinks “they should all be treated with dignity and respect.”
VanDyke isn’t the first of Trump’s nominees to get strong pushback from the ABA. Law.com reported that nine of Trump’s nominees have been rated as “not qualified” for the federal bench by the organization. At least four of these nominees have been successfully confirmed nevertheless, while others have been blocked. The ABA’s rating process has been criticized by conservatives, who say the organization is biased against nominees who aren’t liberals.
Writing for the conservative National Review, Thomas Jipping wrote that of the ABA: “[It’s] reasonable to ask whether this consistently liberal organization can really be objective and non-political in its ratings of judicial nominees.” He called the devastating letter about VanDyke “another self-inflicted wound” for the organization.
Orin Kerr, a University of California law professor, noted on Twitter: “I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this before, which I say realizing that some will say it shows how unqualified the [nominee] is, while others will say it shows how biased the ABA is. I don’t know which is true. But either way, it’s a remarkable letter.”
In the hearing, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) noted Wednesday that there have been many criticisms of the ABA review process, some of which he agrees with. In particular, he acknowledged that the ABA’s conclusions are opaque, and it doesn’t provide the background documentation of its investigations.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chair of the committee, said he agreed with these criticisms.
“We actually have something we can do about that,” Whitehouse said. “I’ve been on this committee awhile. ABA letters are always this way. They don’t give you the underlying backup. But what we do have here is some pretty darned serious concerns. And to just laugh them off, I don’t think is appropriate. I think we have a responsibility here. … We can resolve this by bringing in the ABA folks and letting them explain what the basis was for these charges.”
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