Speaking through its judicial vetting committee, the A.B.A. has rejected fourteen of President Obama’s potential nominees for the federal bench. The overall rejection rate was 7.5 percent, a rate three and a half times that for the eight-year administrations of both President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton.
Why has the A.B.A. been less enthusiastic about the Obama judicial nominees? One simple theory is that the organization is more conservative than many think. It used to be assumed the A.B.A. had a liberal bias, but the rejected nominees are Obama-style liberals.
Another theory involves the experiences and career paths of the nominees. Most were government lawyers and academics, but the A.B.A. apparently wants significant trial experience. The A.B.A., like the general public, may think that “true” lawyers are litigators.
The most troubling theory for the high rejection rate is that the A.B.A. continues to imagine a white, male federal judiciary. Eight of the fourteen rejections are African American or Hispanic, and nine are women.
President Obama could still seek Senate confirmation for his nominees, but regardless of what he decides on that score, the rejections provide new perspectives on the A.B.A. The emerging image is hardly attractive.