Monday, October 20, 2003

Janice Rogers Brown and the ABA

Janice Rogers Brown, a nominee to the D.C. Circuit and a sitting Justice on the California Supreme Court, has been given the rating Q/NQ (or Qualified/Not Qualified) by the ABA. (This rating is featured prominently in the Congressional Black Caucus's press release opposing her nomination.) This article explains:
Brown is the second sitting judge nominated by Bush to an appellate court who has received a partial “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association.

The ABA’s Standing Committee on the Judiciary does not reveal a precise breakdown of its members’ votes. But it did disclose, pursuant to its guidelines, that Brown was rated “qualified” by less than two-thirds of the 15 members, meaning that at least six declared her “not qualified” and none said she was “well qualified.”
I'm not that familiar with Brown's judicial opinions, so I can't say whether the Q/NQ rating would be justified if it was what it purports to be: A non-partisan measure of objective qualifications.

The ABA, however, has a history of issuing ratings that don't correspond to any plausible non-partisan notion of "qualification." For instance, according to this National Review article, the ABA gave D.C. Circuit judge (and Clinton nominee) Judith Rogers a "well-qualified" rating. But the ABA gave the "qualified/not qualified" rating to such outstanding judges as Stephen Williams, Laurence Silberman, Richard Posner, Alex Kozinski, and Michael Luttig.

It's hard to take the ABA process even remotely seriously when it has classified Judith Rogers, whose judicial career has been fairly undistinguished, as more "qualified" than Posner, who is widely celebrated as one of the most influential and brilliant judges of all time. The most charitable explanation is that the ABA is simply clueless.

In any event, Janice Rogers Brown, with her Q/NQ, is in outstanding company.

UPDATE: Thanks to Jonathan Adler for the kind words. On the Corner, he writes: "[P.S. While it is not the most-update blog around, The Buck Stops Here is definitely one of the better law-blogs around.]" Not the most updated? OK, fair enough. Maybe that's because, unlike some lawyer bloggers, I have a full-time job. ;)


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