It turns out people with a dearth of relevant experience or knowledge make poor candidates for the courts. Imagine that.
Considering Donald Trump is the least qualified person to ever attain the presidency of the United States, perhaps it makes sense that he keeps nominating people for the courts who are equally ill-equipped for the job.
But that doesn’t make it any less embarrassing that a third nominee has now dropped out of the running in shame.
Matthew Petersen, Trump’s pick for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, withdrew his name from consideration Monday in the wake of a viral video showing just how little experience or knowledge he would bring to the bench.
Petersen currently serves on the Federal Election Commission and has never tried a case nor even argued a motion in court. And under questioning from senators during his nomination hearing last Wednesday, he fumbled and flailed his way from start to finish.
After confirming that he had vanishingly little experience anywhere near an actual courtroom, Petersen also acknowledged that he had not read the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure — the standards that govern cases in the court to which he was nominated — since law school, and could not offer any substantive answer when asked about various elements of the law.
Aderson Francois, a professor at Georgetown Law, noted that “a second year law student” could have answered the questions better than Petersen.
And when Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, tweeted a video of the painful exchanges, his commentary said it all.
Petersen was asked “basic questions of law & he can’t answer a single one. Hoo-boy,” Whitehouse wrote.
In his resignation letter to Trump, Petersen plaintively lamented that his void of knowledge and experience ended up being an issue.
“I had hoped that my nearly two decades of public service might carry more weight than my two worst minutes on television,” he wrote.
Petersen joins two other absurdly unqualified Trump nominees who have dropped out of consideration.
Brett Talley, whom Trump picked for the U.S. District Court in Alabama, withdrew his name after a host of controversial issues arose in the wake of his nomination. He failed to disclose that his wife is chief of staff to White House counsel Don McGahn, and his response to the Sandy Hook massacre was to bemoan America as a “society of pansies.”
Further, Talley has been unanimously declared “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, which ought to have tipped Trump off.
And Jeff Mateer, whom Trump had chosen for a district court post in Texas, is also no longer in the running after hateful comments he made about LGBTQ people emerged. Mateer referred to transgender children as “Satan’s plan,” and called same-sex marriage “disgusting” and potentially leading to bestiality or polygamy.
Even Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley thought Mateer and Talley were too unqualified and extreme to move forward.
Petersen is the third strike for Trump when it comes to choosing people for the bench who actually belong there. Unlike his own experience, perhaps Trump will learn that being manifestly unqualified for a job is not actually an asset.