One of President Donald Trump’s nominees to a lifetime U.S. district court position was unable to answer a series of basic legal questions about legal and courtroom terms posed by a Republican Senator.
Republican Sen. John Kennedy (LA) questioned Matthew Petersen, a commissioner on the Federal Election Commission whom Trump nominated to serve as a federal judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia, on his experience with and knowledge of courtroom procedure.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) posted a video of Trump’s nominee struggling to provide answers to Sen. Kennedy’s line of questioning.
Whitehouse labeled the video as a “MUST WATCH,” noting that the nominee was unable to answer “basic questions of law.”
“Hoo-boy,” Whitehouse tweeted.
— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) December 15, 2017
When Kennedy asked Petersen whether he had ever “tried a case to verdict,” he admitted he had not.
“Do you know what a motion in limit is?” Kennedy asked.
“I would probably not be able to give you a good definition,” Petersen responded.
“Do you know what the Younger abstention doctrine is?” Kennedy continued.
“I’ve heard of it, but again,” Petersen responded, trailing off.
“How about the Pullman abstention doctrine?” Kennedy added.
Petersen was unable to respond, shaking his head.
Petersen defended his inability to answer the questions in a brief statement, telling Kennedy, “I haven’t had to do a deep dive … and I understand, and I appreciate this line of questioning, I understand the challenge that would be ahead of me if I were fortunate enough to be named a district court judge.”
“I understand that the path many successful district court judges has been a different one than I have taken,” Petersen continued, adding that he believed that he was still qualified for the lifetime appointment.
President Trump promised during the campaign that he would hire the best people for the country.
“I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people,” he said at the time. “We want top of the line professionals.”