Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) stumped yet another Biden judicial nominee on Wednesday with basic questions that would be pertinent to the nominee’s job.
Last month, President Joe Biden nominated U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather to a fill a vacancy on the United States Court of Federal Claims. The unique court comprises 16 judges, holds national jurisdiction, and is tasked with deciding cases involving monetary claims that U.S. citizens make against the federal government.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Kennedy sought to establish whether Meriweather has any experience with the court, an important résumé point considering she may serve on it.
At first, Kennedy forced Meriweather to admit she has neither argued a case in the Court of Federal Claims nor tried any cases in the court. Then, he asked her for specific answers to basic questions.
“Tell me the grounds for granting a new trial in the Court of Federal Claims,” he requested.
The nominee, in response, provided a long, drawn-out answer in which she claimed “the same rules” that apply in district courts apply in the Court of Federal Claims. But she failed to provide the grounds for granting a new trial, as Kennedy had requested.
“So, what are the grounds for granting a new trial?” the senator asked again.
“My understanding is that a new trial, you would have to comply with the applicable rules—” she responded.
“I know that. But what are they? What are the grounds?” Kennedy pressed. “You said that the rules are identical to the Court of Federal Claims and federal district court — I’m not sure that’s accurate. But just tell me: what are the grounds for granting a new trial in the Court of Federal Claims?”
Finally, Meriweather admitted that she does not know because “that is not an issue I have had occasion to consider before.” The admission in hand, Kennedy broadened the scope of his inquiry.
“Can you tell me one single ground for granting a new trial in either a federal district court or the Court of Federal Claims as we sit here today?” he asked.
Meriweather managed to name one — “gross misapplication of the law” — and when pressed on whether she could name any other, she could not, again citing inexperience with motions for a new trial.
For the final question of Kennedy’s legal exam, he asked Meriweather if she could define contracts of adhesion, a type of case the Court of Federal Claims deals with. After hemming and hawing, Meriweather finally admitted that she couldn’t recall what an adhesion contract is.
“Sure, you’ll look it up,” Kennedy snarked.
Finally, Kennedy peppered Meriweather with multiple pre-trial detention rulings that she made in criminal cases that were later overturned by district judges.
Taking Kennedy’s impromptu legal exam is a rite of passage for judicial nominees who go before the Senate. Kennedy’s questions have left many of Biden’s judicial nominees embarrassed because they were unable to answer simple questions.
One nominee even asked Biden to withdraw her nomination after a rocky hearing last year.
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