Judicial Nominee Who Stumbled In Hearing Withdraws

Ann Santiago
December 19, 2017

"While I am honored to have been nominated for this position, it has become clear to me over the past few days that my nomination has become a distraction - and that is not fair to you or your administration", Petersen wrote in his withdrawal letter to Trump.

A White House official said Petersen withdrew his nomination, which the president has accepted.

Matthew Petersen, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, became an internet sensation after the video of his confirmation hearing - during which Petersen was unable to define basic legal terms - was posted online. Wiley Rein partner Jan Baran, who hired Petersen to his election law group right out of law school, said, "I wasn't aware that being a trial lawyer was a precondition to being a district court judge, particularly in the District of Columbia. However, I am no stranger to political realities". John Kennedy (R-La.) asked him about his courtroom experience.

A member of the Federal Election Commission, Petersen saw his prospects of a career on the bench derailed by a hearing in which he was questioned, and ultimately humiliated by a lawmaker from his own party. But Petersen's lack of qualifications were painfully on display last week as Sen.

KENNEDY: State or federal court?

"Just because you've seen "My Cousin Vinny" doesn't qualify you to be a federal judge", Kennedy said.

Petersen said he was "involved" in taking a deposition, but would "be struggling to remember" how many.

While I cannot speak to the credentials of the president's other judicial nominees, I can offer a firsthand perspective on Mr. Petersen's qualifications that spans longer than a four-minute video snippet. The White House said on December 13 that the nominations of Brett Talley, rated "unanimously unqualified" by the American Bar Association; and Jeff Mateer, who reportedly said in 2015 that transgender children are part of "Satan's plan," would not "be moving forward". He also appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Courts, restoring the high court's conservative majority.

"He doesn't interview these guys, he has his staff do it", said the Louisiana Republican.

"I would probably not be able to give you a good definition", Petersen responded. "But you can't just walk into a federal courthouse for the very first time and say 'Here I am, I think I wanna be a judge.' It just doesn't work that way", Mr Kenendy told CNN. After questioning Petersen, he didn't find him "quite ready to be a federal judge", which Kennedy told Trump.

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