Nov 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate confirms Trump's youngest judicial pick as GOP breaks tradition

Senate building.
The U.S. Senate. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed lawyer Kathryn Kimball Mizelle to a lifetime judgeship on U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in a 49-41 vote.

Why it matters: It's the sixth Trump-appointed district judge the Senate has confirmed since Election Day, breaking with the body's tradition against approving nominees of a lame-duck president.

  • Even after losing the presidential election, Trump and Republicans have continued to reshape the judiciary at a blistering pace with a slew of young, conservative judges.
  • The Senate had only once approved the nominee of a president who lost re-election since 1987, Brookings Institution fellow Russell Wheeler told Bloomberg Law.

The vote comes despite Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) recent letter to Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asking that the body "cease to process judicial nominations" in light of President-elect Biden's victory.

  • "[W]e’re going to run through the tape. We go through the end of the year, and so does the President," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt in October.

The big picture: Democrats have criticized the Washington, D.C.-based lawyer's record, arguing she has never tried a criminal or civil case as lead or co-counsel.

  • The 33-year-old, who has eight years of legal experience, is President Trump's youngest judicial appointment. She would be among the youngest federal judges in the U.S.
  • A substantial majority of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee gave Mizelle a "Not Qualified" rating for the position, citing the "short time she has actually practiced law and her lack of meaningful trial experience."
  • The other side: Republicans have touted Mizelle's resume, which includes a clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

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