Report: Justin Walker

Walker (just 37 years old and out of law school only a decade) was nominated as a reward for his vocal defense of Brett Kavanaugh.


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From the Alliance for Justice:


This nomination exposes the Trump Administration’s far-right agenda in judicial nominations. It would be hard to argue that President Trump nominated Walker because of his legal experience and trial skills (which are minimal) or his ability to be a fair and unbiased jurist. Rather, Walker (just 37 years old and out of law school only a decade) was nominated as a reward for his vocal defense of Brett Kavanaugh, for whom he clerked on the D.C. Circuit, and in recognition of his own far-right ideology.

When right-wing critics questioned Kavanaugh’s conservative bona fides, Walker was trotted out on Fox News and other media outlets. He made clear that Kavanaugh was a “warrior” for “conservative legal principles,” who would “not go[] wobbly.” Later, after the credible allegations of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her, Walker publicly defended the accused assailant, minimized corroborating evidence of sexual assault, and attacked the integrity of Democratic senators.


In fact, Walker conducted over 70 media interviews defending his former boss. In contrast, by his own admission, Walker has never “served as sole or chief counsel in any case tried to verdict or judgment.” Only once has he been “associate counsel at a federal criminal jury trial.” Only once has he “taken an expert deposition.” Walker was not even admitted to practice in the Western District of Kentucky, the court to which he is being nominated to be a judge, until this year. The Trump Administration is known for valuing conservative media punditry over other credentials for high office: True to form, Walker’s qualifications to be a federal trial judge consist of at least 69 more media appearances defending Kavanaugh than federal jury trials or expert depositions.


Walker – a critic of the Mueller investigation who wrote an article arguing against the independence of the FBI after Trump fired the FBI Director because of “this Russia thing” – is apparently being rewarded for his loyalty and ideological extremism. His outspokenness extends to vehement opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), calling the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Act “indefensible.” He also supports reinvigorating doctrines last used over 80 years ago in order to roll back protections for workers, consumers, and clean air and water. He has fought workers’ rights and praised a dissent arguing it was unconstitutional to ban semi-automatic rifles.



From the Alliance for Justice:


It is clear that Walker was not nominated for his legal experience or trial skills, nor was he nominated for his ability to be a fair and unbiased jurist. Walker made his views clear on what he believes qualifies a person to be a federal judge in one of his 119 media appearances (118 more than the number of depositions he has taken) on behalf of Brett Kavanaugh. Walker stated that Kavanaugh should be confirmed because he was a “warrior” for “conservative legal principles,” “who will not go wobbly.” Walker, in other words, makes clear his view that a good judge is not someone who will fairly, dispassionately, and without bias apply facts to law, but someone who will be a “warrior” for conservatism.


...


Walker, a critic of the Mueller investigation, wrote an article arguing against the independence of the FBI after President Trump fired the FBI Director expressly to undermine the Russian investigation. He said the FBI Director should “not think of himself as the nation’s protector, instead he must think of himself as an agent of the President.”


His views on public education are particularly noxious. He bemoaned the use of tax revenue to maintain “a minimum level of funding to offer an adequate education for all students.” He criticized the right to a quality public education found in many state constitutions. Remarkably, Walker equates “the African American minority in segregated schools” in the 1950s with “the wealthy minority in affluent schools” in the 1990s, claiming that “the latter is…a fairly popular class to take political aim at.” Seemingly without irony, Walker uses the language of minority rights to complain that the right to education contained in state constitutions, and increased spending on public education, would infringe upon the liberty of “the minority of individuals who pay the majority of income taxes.”


Given AFJ’s strong concerns regarding Justin Walker’s ability to be a fair and impartial judge and his extreme lack of qualification for such a critical role as a trial judge, as detailed in our report on his nomination issued prior to his hearing, which can be found here, we urge the Senate to reject Justin Walker’s nomination.




From the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights:


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Rated Not Qualified by the ABA:  The ABA determined that Mr. Walker – age 37 and just 10 years out of law school – lacks sufficient experience, particularly trial experience, to serve as a U.S. District Judge.  Mr. Walker is the seventh Trump judicial nominee to be rated Not Qualified by the ABA.  This appears to be the highest number of judicial nominees to be rated Not Qualified during the first three years of a presidency.  The ABA made the following observations in a letter explaining why it deems Mr. Walker unqualified to serve as a federal judge:


  • “The judicial system, the public, the trial bar, and the nominee are not well served by appointing to the bench a lawyer who lacks adequate experience…. Mr. Walker does not meet the minimum professional competence standard necessary to perform the responsibilities required by the high office of a federal district court judge.”[1]

  • “Mr. Walker’s experience to date has a very substantial gap, namely the absence of any significant trial experience. Walker has never tried a case as lead or co-counsel, whether civil or criminal.”[2]

  • “[I]t was challenging to determine how much of his ten years since graduation from law school has been spent in the practice of law. Even crediting the time spent in judicial clerkships, Mr. Walker’s practice experience is less than his 10 years since graduation and significantly less than the 12 years of legal practice experience stated in our criteria [as minimally necessary to serve as a federal judge].”[3]


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It is also troubling that the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Graham, permitted Mr. Walker to have a hearing despite his Not Qualified rating, and that Senator Graham jettisoned the committee’s tradition of allowing the ABA to offer live testimony about its rationale for rating a nominee Not Qualified.  Senator Graham has shown rank hypocrisy on the value of the ABA’s role in the confirmation process.  During the Obama presidency, Senator Graham called the ABA the “gold standard” and stated: “That service you provide the Senate is invaluable because in these politically charged times in which we live, you are a filter, sort of a wall, between people who are politically connected and somebody who should be on the bench.”[6]  Senator Graham’s partisan and relentless effort to steamroll Trump judicial nominees through the committee will be an indelible stain on his legacy.


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Hostile to Health Care:  Amidst his shameless defense of Justice Kavanaugh last year, Mr. Walker laid bare his own extreme views, including his intense opposition to the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) and access to health care.  In a July 2018 op-ed explaining why then-Judge Kavanaugh’s opinion in a D.C. Circuit case demonstrated skepticism of the ACA, Mr. Walker wrote:


Kavanaugh’s thorough and principled takedown of the mandate was indeed a roadmap for the Supreme Court – the Supreme Court dissenters, justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, who explained that the mandate violated the Constitution.  I am very familiar with that opinion, because I served as Kennedy’s law clerk that term.  I can tell you with certainty that the only justices following a roadmap from Brett Kavanaugh were the ones who said Obamacare was unconstitutional.  Kavanaugh was equally critical of the individual mandate under the weak Taxing Clause argument advanced by the government and catastrophically accepted by the Supreme Court.[13]


Mr. Walker’s assertion that the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ACA decision was “catastrophic” reveals a deep-seated hostility to the ACA that would render him incapable of fairly presiding over a case involving that critical federal law.

In addition, Mr. Walker supported efforts to deny contraceptive coverage to employees.  In a July 6, 2018 op-ed, Mr. Walker praised then-Judge Kavanaugh’s dissent in Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where he voted to allow religiously-affiliated employers to opt out of providing birth control coverage to employees.  Mr. Walker called his former boss’s record of ruling on behalf of religious interests “unparalleled” and stated: “His dissenting opinion in Priests for Life v. HHS, where he concluded that the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate violated the rights of religious organizations, was called ‘pure perfection’ by one of the lawyers challenging the mandate.”[14]  Mr. Walker has a clear agenda on reproductive health issues and could not rule fairly in such cases.




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