Wendy Vitter, who has been the general counsel for the Archdiocese of New Orleans since 2012, attends the Red Mass at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, La. Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. President Donald Trump plans to nominate Wendy Vitter, the wife of former U.S. Sen. David Vitter, for a vacant federal judgeship in New Orleans, according to an email from the White House obtained by The Advocate. The Red Mass celebrates the opening of the judicial year with judges and lawyers in attendance and is sponsored by the Catholic Bishops of the State of Louisiana and the St Thomas More Catholic Lawyers Association.

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON

Newsflash. The General Counsel to the Archdiocese of New Orleans is anti-abortion.

If she were a believer in reproductive rights, of course, Wendy Vitter wouldn't have the job.

But she has been so coy about her advocacy of Catholic orthodoxy that the Judiciary Committee has invited her to reconsider her responses to a questionnaire she has been required to fill out as a nominee for a federal judgeship.

Asked to list all her “public statements,” Vitter provided a list running to more than 20 pages of speeches delivered to various groups over the years, almost always about what her husband was doing in Washington. What he was doing as a member of the House and then the Senate, that is. David Vitter's spare-time activities were not a suitable subject for a Republican Women's Club luncheon.

You would not know from the list submitted by Wendy Vitter that she ever delivered an anti-abortion speech. The Alliance for Justice, which occupies the opposite end of the political spectrum, was happy to remedy her omissions and announce its opposition to her nomination. The Alliance for Justice report emboldened Dianne Feinstein of California, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, to point out that Trump judicial nominees have a habit of hiding important facts.

Orleans Parish prosecutors were also adept at hiding important facts when Harry Connick was DA, and the Alliance for Justice cannot resist pointing out that Wendy Vitter was one of his assistants. There is no proof that she took part in the office sport of railroading suspects, although she did rise to become Connick's chief of trials.

The Alliance for Justice now adduces plenty of evidence that she advanced the anti-abortion views of which her employer and her husband would approve. In completing her questionnaire, Wendy Vitter failed to mention, for instance, that in 2013 she rallied protesters outside the site of a new Planned Parenthood clinic in New Orleans and led a panel at a Louisiana Right to Life conference, that was receptive to the theory that abortion causes breast cancer and contraceptive pills can kill.

Whacky stuff, but nothing there to embarrass a GOP nominee, and Wendy Vitter might, in any case, claim that the omissions were inadvertent, because she cannot be accused of hiding her anti-abortion light under a bushel. Elsewhere in the questionnaire, she noted that she chaired the Notre Dame Seminary Priests for Life luncheon in 2013 and won the Right to Life Foundation Award in 2017.

Wendy Vitter nominated for coveted federal judgeship in New Orleans

Feinstein suggests Wendy Vitter might fit a pattern as a Trump nominee with a skeleton in the closet, but, even if she was deliberately unforthcoming, she can scarcely hold a candle to some of those who went before. Brett Talley of Alabama, for instance, covered up major conflicts of interest and blogged in favor of the Klan, while Gordon Giampietro of Wisconsin not only shares the Vitters' views on abortion but forgot to mention that he opposes gay rights and has knocked the Civil Rights Act.

If Wendy Vitter is unfit for a seat on the federal bench, it is not because she left out occasions when she advanced a cause the whole world knows she favors. Both our current U.S. Senators claim she is qualified, although their views may be taken with a grain of salt given their political indebtedness to her husband. Bill Cassidy gave David Vitter much of the credit when he was elected to the Senate in 2014, and John Kennedy got his chance when David Vitter did not seek re-election in 2016 after losing a bid for governor. When Cassidy says Wendy Vitter is an “excellent” choice and Kennedy says she has done “very important work,” it's phonus bolonus for sure.

She quit the DA's office in 1992 and spent one year at a private firm before abandoning the law. Appearing at a Tea Party gathering in 2010, she said she was proud to be a “stay at home mom.” While that role is admirable, it may not be the best training for a federal judge. Wendy Vitter's experience in federal court is limited to one appearance as co-counsel 25 years ago. She has worked at the archdiocese since 2012.

The gaps in her questionnaire are likely to be overlooked, because what matters is who she is married to. You didn't think judicial nominations were apolitical, did you?

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