What in the world were they thinking?

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Ever wonder how people come up with their ideas? Take, for example, the Trump administration’s decision to nominate Matthew Spencer Petersen to be a federal judge for the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.

Nominees must be approved by the Senate, and the questioning by Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., last Friday showed how unfit Petersen is to serve as a judge. It’s painful to listen to Senator Kennedy’s questioning. If appointed, Petersen would serve a life-long appointment, but he knows nothing—literally nothing—about courtroom rules and procedures and trying cases.

The federal bench is no place for rookies. Legal analyst and writer, Jeffrey Toobin, refers to the federal bench as perhaps the best feature of the federal government. Federal judges are, generally, the best of the best, and, because of their independence, they are able to make the hard decisions that must be made.

Petersen works for the Federal Election Commission, a place far removed from the world of trials, the rules of evidence, civil and criminal law, and everything else that comprises an average day for a federal judge. According to Vox, Petersen’s nomination probably came about because he once worked with White House counsel, Don McGhan, who oversees judicial nominations.

Certainly, McGahn and Petersen must have talked about Petersen never having seen the inside of a courtroom, and yet his nomination went forward. What in the world was McGahn thinking? Actually, that’s an easy question. This is the same man who was likely behind the nomination of Brett Talley for a district judgeship in Alabama. Talley has never tried a case and has practiced law for just three years. Where do we get such men as McGahn?

But what about Petersen? How is it he lacked the self-awareness to say to his friend, “Don, serving as a federal judge sounds like a great gig, but I don’t have the background to do the job. I’m nowhere close to having what it takes to be a federal judge.”

Is it hubris or a lack of shame (or both) that two highly educated men can think for a moment that someone so poorly lacking in experience should serve in what is an incredibly difficult and important job? It’s stunning.

And the payback for Petersen not thinking this through and letting his ego get the better of him? His embarrassing performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee has been watched by hundreds of thousands on YouTube and is the subject of countless articles on social media.

And the saving grace for the rest of us? Petersen withdrew his nomination today, just three days after his interview. (Do I hear an Amen?)


Jack D’Aurora writes for




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  1. Bruce Lackey  December 19, 2017


  2. Jim Petro  December 19, 2017

    and hallelujah!!

  3. Dan  December 19, 2017

    yep, scratching my head on this one. Are we so lacking in qualified judges there is no one qualified or is it the parties have become so alienated and divisive there can be no consideration given to an opposing party judge. Looking
    out for party parameters only exasperates the divide and trust issues. Let’s move forward and find a more suitable candidate.

  4. Charles  December 20, 2017

    Kind of like Zack Kline getting elected as City Attorney for Columbus. Makes you wonder?

    •  December 21, 2017

      I think that trying to make that comparison is a stretch, Charley. Maybe I’m biased because I know him, but I think Zach will do a fine job.

  5. Charlie  December 22, 2017

    Yep, probably bias.
    Merry Christmas!

  6. ROBIN LORMS  December 27, 2017

    ….and AMEN!


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