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Lawrence VanDyke is one of President Trump’s outstanding nominees to serve on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But he was the target of a disgraceful character assassination attempt Wednesday at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee when he was asked about false and absurd allegations that he would not be fair to the LGBTQ community.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who is among those supporting VanDyke, clearly found the allegations surprising. Hawley sought to understand whether there was any truth in the American Bar Association’s assertion that VanDyke “would not say affirmatively that he would be fair to any litigant before him, notably members of the LGBTQ community.”
VanDyke started to answer, but his emotions caught in his throat. He clearly understood the weight of the moment – that his career as a lawyer hung in the balance – and that the good name he had spent a lifetime building was on the line.
Though he tried to compose himself, VanDyke could only speak his response through a broken voice and hot tears: “I did not say that. No, I did not say that. I do not believe that. It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God. They should all be treated with dignity and respect, senator.”
Had I ever been a part of the ABA, I would now renounce my membership. This outrageous and completely baseless attack on VanDyke should shock all Americans.
As they did with U.S. Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork (not confirmed) and now-Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, the intolerant left has once again deployed lies, smears and distortions not just to oppose an ideological opponent, but to destroy him.
Anyone – in the Senate or elsewhere – who validates the ABA’s 11th hour dishonest political attack against VanDyke is woefully ignorant of his extraordinary qualifications and professionalism. Worse, should Van Dyke’s opponents succeed, they are morally responsible for the destruction of his career.
VanDyke’s career ranges from a stint as deputy assistant U.S. attorney, to private practice, to service as the solicitor general for Nevada and Montana.
VanDyke represented the American Civil Liberties Union in a First Amendment challenge to a law restricting the ability of citizens to advocate for or against the Texas speaker of the House. Then he helped defend Opulent Life Church from the onerous zoning restrictions imposed by the City of Holly Springs, Miss.
For all these reasons, President Trump made an excellent choice when he nominated VanDyke to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – an appellate court in great need of an outstanding judge like VanDyke.
No one can honestly and credibly attack VanDyke’s sterling credentials. No one even tries. But attacks on someone’s legal research, writing and advocacy are not in the playbook for today’s progressive left, which is driven by a militant secularism that worships at the altar of wokeness.
In his hearing Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, senators grilled VanDyke, lambasting him for daring to take a position as novel as the right of the Christian Legal Society to be led by . . . Christians. Hard to believe, but true.
The opposition to VanDyke stems from the American Bar Association, an organization that abandoned all pretense of partisan neutrality years ago.
As a result, the ABA’s membership is rapidly declining. Those who remain use the fading notion that the ABA represents “the legal community” as a shibboleth against their political opponents and to promote a progressive agenda.
Usually, the ABA is subtle, downgrading a nominee from “well qualified” to “qualified” while charmingly pointing out objections that triggered the slight. Not this time. Not for VanDyke. This time the ABA aimed for the heart.
Typically, the ABA sends in a team of evaluators to examine a federal judicial nominee’s past, asking questions of friends, colleagues and acquaintances from decades of the nominee’s life.
Members of the team of evaluators – as neutral as one can get in the increasingly leftist ABA – interview the nominee directly and review documents he or she has drafted. That informs their letter submitted as a service to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Marcia Davenport led VanDyke’s evaluation for the ABA. That’s significant because she donated directly to VanDyke’s political opponent when he ran for the Montana Supreme Court. Indeed, not one of her political donations landed in the campaign coffers of a Republican.
And, as Carrie Severino reports, the ABA team relied on statements from Michael Black, the chief of the Civil Division Bureau of the Montana Department of Justice, who “publicly opposed VanDyke when he ran for the Montana Supreme Court, launching personal attacks against VanDyke.”
I have had the good fortune to work alongside Lawrence VanDyke in the support of religious freedom. He volunteered significant pro bono hours defending the First Amendment alongside First Liberty Institute. He is a compassionate man with a brilliant intellect. His tenderness of temperament is reflected in the words he expressed through sobs to Sen. Hawley.
The Senate has a moral responsibility to reject the ABA’s latest attempt to destroy a good man and should confirm Lawrence VanDyke to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Failing to do so would be a dereliction of duty and a grave injustice.