Wednesday, September 13, 2006

ABA's smear campaign against Wallace

ABA Tries to Bar Judges With Different Views
Los Angeles Daily Journal, Aug. 22, 2006, at 8

The American Bar Association is at it again. Recently, its Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary unanimously rated Michael Wallace "not qualified" to serve on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and defended its position in a document that they submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee (full text available at

In their own words: "The investigation revealed that Mr. Wallace has the highest professional competence. Mr. Wallace possesses outstanding academic credentials, having graduated from Harvard University in 1973 and the University of Virginia Law School in 1976. He was a law clerk to former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist from 1977 to 1978. Mr. Wallace is often described as a 'legal scholar' of 'strong intellect;' [sic.] a quality lawyer with a 'quick legal mind.' He is a highly skilled and experienced trial and appellate lawyer who is considered a 'go-to lawyer' on certain litigation matters in Mississippi. As discussed below, even those persons with serious concerns regarding Mr. Wallace's judicial temperament describe him as a brilliant lawyer, one who would ably master legal issues before him as a judge.

The investigation also established that Mr. Wallace possesses the integrity to serve on the bench. His integrity was described by many as 'impeccable,' 'outstanding,' 'the highest,' 'absolute,' and 'solid.' Persons throughout the legal community stated that Mr. Wallace is a fine family man, an excellent husband and father."

Nevertheless, the committee decided to sully this respected attorney's reputation and became complicit in attempting to deny him the honor of serving on the Court of Appeals. Why? Because "over a third of [the 69 people interviewed off the record] expressed grave concerns regarding Mr. Wallace's judicial temperament." Read another way, the overwhelming majority of those interviewed had no concerns regarding his judicial temperament. Other than political bias, what would be the rationale of the ABA to give the benefit of the doubt to the minority of those interviewed? Why is the ABA again confusing the role of an advocate and that of a judge?

Though a majority of the ABA's standing committee on the judiciary rated Judge Charles Pickering "well qualified" (some rated this veteran federal judge simply "qualified"), I could not help but draw parallels between the two nominees.

Like Wallace, Pickering was pegged as being insensitive to minority rights, if not an outright bigot. Principally on those charges, he was opposed and successfully filibustered by the Democrats in the Senate until he was given a recess appointment to the Court of Appeals. He has since retired. (I highly recommend "Supreme Chaos," his book on the subject of judicial confirmations including his own experience.)

One need not go any further than a piece aired on CBS' "60 Minutes" - not exactly a bastion of conservatism (remember Dan Rather?) - to see that the allegations against Pickering were false. It requires that kind of public airing, where parties' bias and agendas are borne out, to be able to get to the truth. This is exactly why the right to cross-examination was enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The ABA's commitment to confidentiality (with their own hidden agenda, if any) cannot trump the rights of this highly qualified and regarded individual to serve on the 5th Circuit.

Furthermore, this serves as another example of why President Bush did the right thing by marginalizing - at least officially (the administration needs to stop citing them, thus giving them credibility, when it suits them) - the role of the ABA in vetting judicial nominees. The ABA, among other things, is for the abolition of the death penalty and the advancement of gay rights and abortion on demand by judicial fiat (I am perfectly okay with advancing these causes through the democratic process). And under the catch-all heading of "judicial temperament" they will seek to advance these policy goals by seeking to exclude highly qualified individuals that do not sign on to their various liberal social agendas.

ATLA goes to Eleven

Changing Organization's Name Won't Change the Image of Trial Attorneys
Los Angeles Daily Journal, July 26, 2006, at 9.

The Association of Trial Lawyers of America's latest attempt to change its image by simply changing names, "Trial Lawyers Reborn as American Association for Justice" (Daily Journal, July 20), somehow reminded me of that famous scene from the movie "This Is Spinal Tap," where we are introduced to the first guitar amplifier that goes to 11. Here is the transcript of the scene where Nigel Tufnel, the fictional musician, is being interviewed by the fake documentary director Marty DiBergi played by Rob Reiner:

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to 11. Look, right across the board, 11, 11, 11 and ...
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to 10?
Tufnel: Exactly.
DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?
Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not 10. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at 10. You're on 10 here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on 10 on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
DiBergi: I don't know.
Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
DiBergi: Put it up to 11.
Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
DiBergi: Why don't you just make 10 louder and make 10 be the top number and make that a little louder?
Tufnel: [pause, blank look and snapping chewing gum] These go to 11.

If ATLA thinks that trial lawyers as a group have an image problem, the solution cannot be simply "go[ing] to 11." They ought to "make 10 louder."

[Source of transcript: Wikipedia.]