American Bar Association Gives Low Ratings to Trump Judicial Nominees if They’re Pro-Life

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Nov 28, 2018   |   1:02PM   |   Washington, DC

A lot of weight typically is placed on the American Bar Association’s rating of federal judicial nominees, but that may be changing.

Though the ABA is non-partisan, many wonder if the legal group is letting political biases creep into its ratings of President Donald Trump’s conservative choices, The Washington Times reports.

The ABA recently rated Jonathan Kobes, nominated to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, as “not qualified” because he does not have a long record of legal writings.

However, some say Cynthia Nance, who is in charge of the ABA’s judicial ratings for judges within the Eighth Circuit, has allowed her “fealty to abortion rights” get in the way of an unbiased rating, according to the report.

Kobes is the general counsel for U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota and a conservative on abortion and other issues. According to Metro Weekly, he previously served on the board of Bethany Christian Services, a pro-life adoption and foster care agency, and defended a law requiring that abortion facilities provide informed consent information to women prior to having an abortion.

ABA has given low ratings to several other conservative nominees as well.

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Here’s more from the Times:

And a year earlier, Ms. Nance led the ABA review committee that rated another Trump pick, Leonard Steven Grasz, “not qualified.” Judge Grasz would win confirmation, but not before accusing the Nance-led panel of inappropriate questions on abortion and referring to him as “you guys” — which he took as a pejorative reference to Republicans. …

The ABA’s treatment of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh underscored those concerns. The organization’s reviewing committee unanimously rated him “well qualified,” but after unsubstantiated allegations of sexual harassment dating back three decades, ABA President Robert Carlson seemed to recant, urging the Senate to delay action on the nominee.

Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network, was not surprised.

“This is nothing new — they [ABA] have a long record of being biased against conservative nominees,” Severino told the news outlet.

Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice, agreed that judicial nominations have become much more about political “ideology” in recent years.

Some lawmakers said they do not consider the ABA’s ratings as heavily nowadays because of its political leanings.

“I think a lot of people up here — at least on the Senate side — don’t give them much weight,” said U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, of Louisiana.

The ABA rates judicial nominees as “well qualified,” “qualified” or “not qualified.”