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May 05, 2020

Statement on the Nomination of Judge Justin Walker to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia

Chancellor Hon. A. Michael Snyder (ret.) issued the following statement on the nomination of Judge Justin Walker to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia:

“One of the cornerstones of our legal system in the U.S. is the Federal Court system established by the Constitution. The Judges and Justices of the various District Courts, Circuit Courts of Appeals, and the Supreme Court are called upon to be the arbiters of matters affecting all of our lives on a daily basis. The Philadelphia Bar Association has consistently advocated for a judiciary, at all levels of our judicial systems, that demonstrates the highest standards of competence and ethical behavior. When an individual is nominated for a Federal judicial position, a position for life, a stringent review of the nominee’s qualifications, competence, and ethical behavior is demanded.

“Recently, the President has nominated Judge Justin Walker, only recently confirmed as a U.S. District Judge for the U.S. District of Western Kentucky, as a nominee for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Judge Walker only took his seat on the District Court in October, 2019. At the time of his nomination to the District Court, Judge Walker received a rating of ‘Not Qualified’ by the American Bar Association. This negative appellation was based on the complete lack of trial experience of the then Mr. Walker. Indeed, prior to his nomination, Judge Walker had never tried a case and had never acted as second chair on a case before a court.

“Now, with Judge Walker’s nomination by the President to take a seat on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the President has proposed elevating a very young judge, with only approximately 6 months of judicial experience, to a seat on what is viewed by many as the second most powerful Court in the United States. Cases heard in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals deal with truly national issues, and are regularly brought to the U.S. Supreme Court for ultimate review.

“Despite the scant judicial record established by Judge Walker, and despite the fact that Judge Walker only received his formal investiture to the District Court in March of this year, the President, supported by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), nominated Judge Walker to the Circuit Court only three weeks after the investiture ceremony.

“While we acknowledge Judge Walker’s meritorious academic record at both Duke University and Harvard Law School, we must point out that an academic record alone, without trial experience, does not qualify someone for an appointment to such a lofty judicial position. The sine qua non of any individual’s qualifications for a seat on an appellate bench is years of experience on a trial level court, and before that, trial experience itself. Judge Walker has neither.

“It may well be that in time, Judge Walker may gain the experience to qualify him for a seat on a Circuit Court of Appeals. However, at the present time, Judge Walker’s experience is lacking. We therefore urge the U.S. Senate to refuse to confirm Judge Walker to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.”

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