Are ABA Judicial Ratings Neutral?

The American Bar Association’s downgrading of Bush judicial nominee Brett Kavanaugh from Well Qualified to Qualified prompted Steve Bainbridge to take a look at the political contributions made by the nomination committee. Any guesses as to what he found?

You guessed it: Mostly Democrats. Although, oddly given what lawyers make, apparently cheap ones.

Granted, these same committee members initially gave Kavanaugh the highest rating, so their partisanship doesn’t explain the sudden shift. Still, it does raise questions–if any still remained–about the neutrality of the ABA as a rating body for judges.

Update: The Washington Times adds more fuel to the fire:

Washington divorce lawyer Marna S. Tucker, a registered Democrat, conducted the most recent interview of Mr. Kavanaugh and delivered testimony on behalf of the ABA over the telephone yesterday for the Judiciary Committee hearing today. Ms. Tucker has donated more than $10,000 to Democratic candidates and causes, according to Federal Election Commission records at, a Web site that tracks campaign contributions. She has never given to Republicans, according to the site. The Washington Post described her as a “prominent liberal” in 1991 and the following year noted her friendship with Hillary Rodham Clinton, now a Democratic senator from New York. Ms. Tucker also is a founding member and board director of the National Women’s Law Center, an organization committed to abortion rights and other liberal causes.

Not exactly shocking. One wouldn’t expect prominent lawyers to be apolotical; it’s not in their nature. But one would expect a judicious temperament in reviewing nominees’ credentials.

FILED UNDER: General, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. More importantly to me, what was their reason for their shift from a year ago. Was it a change in the committee? Did they come across some new data? Was it the difference between Bush’s poll numbers now and then? Something moved. Is it real (he was found with a live boy or a dead girl in his bed, metaphorically speaking) or is it a partisan artifact?

  2. McGehee says:

    What changed is, the Gang of 14 actually turns out to have had an apparent positive impact on the judicial confirmation process, so the Bush opponents have had to re-double their efforts.