WASHINGTON ― Senate Republicans voted Wednesday to make Lawrence VanDyke a lifetime federal judge, despite the American Bar Association rating him “not qualified” because, according to his own colleagues, he is “arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-today practice including procedural rules.”
Every Republican present but one, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, voted to confirm VanDyke to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Every Democrat present opposed him.
The final vote on VanDyke, who is the former solicitor general of Montana and of Nevada, was 51-44. You can see how every senator voted here.
More than 200 national civil and human rights groups opposed VanDyke, citing his record of attacking LGBTQ rights (he claimed in a 2004 Harvard Law Record article that same-sex families hurt children and that LGBTQ people are deviant) and arguing against women’s reproductive rights (as Montana’s solicitor general, he submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of Arizona’s 20-week abortion ban and asked the justices to reconsider Roe v. Wade).
Gun safety groups like Giffords Law Center, launched by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), opposed VanDyke over what it called his “dangerous positions on firearm policy and fealty to a gun-lobby agenda, alone, render him unfit to serve on the federal bench.” VanDyke claimed in 2014 that all “gun control laws are misdirected” and vowed to oppose basic gun safety measures like tighter background checks.
But his most damning indictment came from the American Bar Association, which for years has evaluated the competency of each of a president’s judicial nominees. After interviews with dozens of his colleagues, including 43 lawyers and 16 judges, the national lawyers’ group gave VanDyke an embarrassing “not qualified” rating. The ABA said VanDyke’s colleagues described him as “arrogant, lazy” and “an ideologue,” and couldn’t say if he “would be fair to any litigant before him, notably members of the LGBTQ community.”
The ABA evaluation cited a theme among interviewees that VanDyke “has an ‘entitlement’ temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful.”
Asked about the ABA’s evaluation and his record on LGBTQ issues during his Senate confirmation hearing in November, VanDyke cried.
“It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God and they should all be treated with dignity and respect,” he told senators.
I wouldn’t hire this guy for a day to paint my house, let alone give him the job for life. Sen. Jon Tester on Lawrence VanDyke's nomination
VanDyke didn’t have support from either of his home-state senators, Nevada Democrats Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen. Ahead of his vote, Cortez Masto said she and Rosen tried to work with the White House to find an appeals court nominee they could both agree on, but they were rebuffed.
“His qualifications are inadequate and his ties to Nevada are minimal,” said Cortez Masto. “His nomination sets a dangerous precedent for the Senate and would allow future administrations to nominate virtual outsiders to communities across the country over senators’ objections.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who knows VanDyke from his days as the state’s solicitor general, said it’s clear that he’s not qualified for the job.
“Let me put it this way,” said Tester. “If I was looking for a contractor to work on my farm in Big Sandy and a guy comes along who has no experience ... whose coworkers think he is arrogant, disrespectful, and lazy ... who doesn’t even think himself qualified to do basic work in his chosen profession ... I wouldn’t hire this guy for a day to paint my house, let alone give him the job for life.”
But VanDyke, 46, is right in line with the kind of court picks being put forward by President Donald Trump: he is young, white, male and a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers’ organization that has played an outsize role in selecting judicial nominees for this White House. Most Federalist Society-backed nominees have records of opposing abortion, LGBTQ rights and voting rights.