Note to Vince re the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary

By now, some of you know that Vince is an excellent plaintiff’s trial lawyer here in Lincoln. He is kind enough to allow me to use him as “foil” for some of my posts. He is a great guy!

Anyway, I got some interesting correspondence recently from Michael J.Yelnosky, Professor of Law, Roger Williams University School of Law. On August 15, 2013, Michael wrote an op-ed piece that ran in the Washington Post.  It relates to the composition of the influential ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. That committee’s evaluation of federal judicial nominees is critical to appointment and confirmation of all federal judges including most particularly federal trial judges.

Among other things, Michael laments that:

Not one of the lawyers on the committee for 2013-14 regularly represents individuals who bring lawsuits alleging they were harmed by the actions of corporations or other business entities, and not one represents individuals charged with anything other than white-collar crimes.

The entirety of the article is very much worth reading. Indeed, I encourage everyone to do so.

Vince, I wonder why the plaintiffs’ federal trial bar does not get very aggressive with the ABA on this subject. I would think you guys would strive hard to obtain significant representation on the Committee. As they say, “you can’t win if you don’t play.”


8 responses

  1. Just so the general public who follows this blog knows the ABA plays a very limited, but important roll in judicial selection. They neither nominate not propose for nomination any judicial candidates at the federal level. Their roll, as I understand it, is to vet the qualifications of those the White House want to nominate. I have never observed a trend of lower evaluations for those who, like me represented individuals suing corporations and governments as well as defending them. I think the ABA has done an outstanding job in their evaluation of potential judges. Of course, it goes without saying that broader representation on their Committee would be a good thing. I am been very active in the ABA, just finishing a year as secretary of a 24,000 member section. For whatever reasons there are far more defense side lawyers active in the Section of Labor and Employment Law – the Section welcomes union an plaintiff side lawyers with open arms and goes to great length to balance all leadership positions. My guess is that the economics of the practice make it easier for members of large defense side firm to become active in the leadership of virtually all ABA committees.

  2. Your honor, when I was on the committee, from 1983-89, the ABA tried to pick people who were known to have good judgment, without striving to be representative of various constituencies. I do not know if that is the case today or not, as I have let my ABA membership lapse. The good judgment of committee appointees was observed from their work on various ABA committees and organizations. It was not foolproof, but for the most part it worked. A word from the plaintiff’s lawyers into the ear of the ABA president, or the governor representing one’s geographical region, or the ABA state delegate, might well be helpful. Just a suggestion. Jim Hewitt

  3. Mark,

    Thanks very much for the additional information. It is very helpful. As I just remarked to Jim Hewitt, perhaps Vince will take note.

    All the best.


  4. Fortunately Nebraska is a model for choosing and confirming federal judges, regardless of the political affiliation of the President. As for the ABA Committee, I was unaware of its composition and intend to follow up.

    Ultimately there are 2 kinds of judges, those who look in the mirror every morning and tell themselves how lucky the community is to have them as a judge and those who look in the mirror every morning and tell themselves how lucky they are to have such a great job.

  5. Vince,

    Thank you Vince. You are too kind. Truly, I think you would be great on the ABA Standing Committee. Do check it out.

    All the best.


  6. I am a lawyer from Connecticut and serve on our senators’ committee to assist with vetting of judicial candidates. Our senators have taken politics out of the process as much as possible to find the best qualified candidates. Our committee has corporate lawyers, law professors, litigators, community activists and yes, even a plaintiff’s trial lawyer (me). The process works. The ABA should not hesitate to diversify the membership of it’s committee

  7. Kathleen,

    Thanks very much for your comment. I appreciate what you have said, and perhaps the ABA will take heed and make additional efforts to diversify the Standing Committee.

    All the best.


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