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Do You Know Court Motions Better Than This Judicial Nominee?

By George Khoury, Esq. on December 18, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

With all the talk of the rare 'Unqualified' ratings being handed out to President Trump's judicial nominees, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had some rather illuminating questions for Matthew Petersen, a nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Lucky for everyone except Petersen, those questions were captured on a video which is going viral.

Most notably, Petersen was rated as "Qualified" but his responses to Senator Whitehouse's questions really call into question what that rating even means. During the rather direct questioning, Petersen admitted to never trying a case, never arguing a motion, nor even knowing the purpose of a motion in limine. All pretty shocking stuff given the fact he's nominated to the federal bench.

Qualified to Decide

Thankfully, at the very least, Petersen is a real lawyer. But in addition to never even having argued a motion, he was unable to even identify rudimentary legal doctrines like the Daubert standard, the Younger, Pullman, or Abstention doctrines.

While most can easily identify Daubert as the test for qualifying an expert witness, Younger and Pullman are a bit more narrowly applicable to constitutional law federal litigators. Petersen did not hesitate to remind Senator Whitehouse that his background is not in litigation.

The senator further narrowed down Petersen's experience conducting depositions as it came out that he has never conducted a deposition, and has only been "involved" in about five.

Perhaps most surprising was Petersen's adept handling of the sharply prodding questions. He seemed to consistently refer to the fact that he has led teams of lawyers and been in a decision making capacity before.

Partisan Voting

Despite these facts, it is likely that Petersen will be confirmed as a result of the partisan politics currently being played out through the federal judiciary. Since the change to a simple majority only being needed for a judicial confirmation, the Republican controlled senate has been able to push through nominations thus far with ease.

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