Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., blasted the American Bar Association over its mixed evaluation of Gloria Navarro, his nominee to the United States District Court. Reid, who has previously relied on ABA ratings in opposing or supporting nominees, told the ABA to “get a new life.”
While I find Reid’s statements to be a bit hyporcritical in light of his past reliance (a problem not unknown to senators on both sides of the aisle), I share his confusion over the rating for Navarro. She seems to have an impressive resume. She has served as Chief Deputy District Attorney for Clark County since 2005 and previously served as Deputy Special Public Defender (2001-2004). She has represented defendants charged with capital and other serious crimes, and was also in private practice. She has won awards for pro bono service and access to justice from organizations such as the Nevada State Bar, and she was the former president of the Latino Bar Association.
In the very least, the ABA should explain why such a stellar professional background is insufficient.
The 15-member Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, a “substantial majority,” consisting of 10 to 13 members, rated Navarro “qualified,” while a minority rated her “not qualified.” Notably, she was not found to be “well-qualified” by members. Why? More importantly, how could such professional experience not render someone at least qualified in the eyes of these three minority members?
I have rarely seen a recommendation that was so lacking a stated foundation. If there is a question of temperament or intellect or conflict of interest, the committee should make those known so the nominee and her supporters can respond to them.
Quite frankly, I am glad to see a public defender nominated. All too often, judgeships are given to prosecutors — giving the courts a pro-prosecution bias in some cases.
The relatively cold review of Navarro, 42, has been explained by some as due to her lack of judicial experience, which makes no sense. She is being nominated for the district court. Most such nominees were not previously judges. More importantly, that should not be a determinative factor for evaluation. I am most concerned that there was not a bias against public defenders or criminal defense attorneys since I have seen former prosecutors with the same or less impressive resumes confirmed in the past. I have no basis to suggest such a bias and I do not want to be unfair to the committee. However, given the disconnect between the resume and recommendation, it would seem a case where more information would be needed.
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