Judicial Nominations

Wendy Vitter, President Donald Trump's nominee to be a District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana, gives testimony during a U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. At right, listening, is her husband, former Senator David Vitter. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

"The worst"? We don't think so in the case of two of President Donald Trump’s Louisiana nominees to the federal courts.

Kyle Duncan and Wendy Vitter are in fact qualified, and we believe they should be confirmed.

The political left is oddly surprised that Trump, whose temperament and views on issues may be fluid, nominates conservative Republicans for judgeships. "President Trump's judicial nominees have been a frightening parade of ideologues, and Wendy Vitter and Stuart Kyle Duncan are two of the worst," said Kristine Lucas of the Leadership Conference on Human and Civil Rights.

We reject this criticism. Judges should be examined by the U.S. Senate, and that's harder than it used to be. To avoid criticism, nominees tell the Judiciary Committee that they cannot comment on cases, even longtime precedents.

The legal rationale is that expressing opinions willy-nilly would show prejudice. The reality is that nominations are such political disputes that nominees don't want to give openings to criticism.

Vitter got in trouble by sticking too closely to the script, saying that she would not comment on Brown v. Board of Education, the seminal decision on school desegregation. But she recovered from her stumble, deploring segregation and again pledging to follow precedents in her job on the district court in the New Orleans region.

Duncan is up for a more important slot on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Vitter is a lifelong anti-abortion advocate and Duncan has also litigated conservative causes, including opposition to same-sex marriage and other precedents that are now the law of the land.

Does that justify calling him and Vitter the worst? We don't think so, and it doesn't have to be this way. The traditional view of judges is that they should be assessed on their qualifications, and both are able people. Vitter's resume is actually stronger, having been a prosecutor, although with time off from the daily court grind to raise a family.

“It was an absolutely horrible answer,” U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat and the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told The Advocate on Wednesday about Vitter and segregation. “Even if you don’t want to go down the line of getting into every little case, you can absolutely say the decision ending segregation was an absolute must and the right and just thing to do.”

We see Vitter as agreeing with that view, even if she answered awkwardly during her hearing. In both Duncan's case and that of Vitter, the important thing is that they are qualified nominees.

The Senate should do its due diligence, but we so no reason that they should not be confirmed.

Kyle Duncan's nomination to 5th Circuit advances out of U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee