The Senate confirmed a former clerk to Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who was a staunch defender of his boss during the controversial hearings last year, for the federal bench Thursday over Democrats’ concerns that the pick lacked enough trial experience to be a judge.
Justin Walker was confirmed to the U.S. Western District of Kentucky by a 50-41 vote. He became the 110th district court judge appointed by President Trump.
Mr. Walker teaches legal writing at the University of Louisville. He previously clerked for Justice Kavanaugh when he sat on the federal appeals court in Washington and clerked at the Supreme Court for now-retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
During Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, Mr. Walker appeared regularly on network television to defend his former boss’s record and reputation after the nominee faced allegations of sexual misconduct. Justice Kavanaugh vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
“For those of us who know Justin Walker and have seen his work up close, it’s clear that President Trump made an outstanding choice to be a district judge for the Western District of Kentucky,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Thursday. “Mr. Walker has sharpened his legal skills at the highest levels.”
Democrats opposed Mr. Walker, saying he only worked on a single trial, which did not require him to speak in the courtroom, and noted he has conducted just one deposition.
They said a nominee for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench should have more experience in the courtroom.
“This nominee is not qualified for the district court,” Sen. Dick Durbin said earlier this month.
“Rather than gaining experience in a courtroom, he spends much of his time in recent years personally appearing on television and radio. He has done nearly 100 media appearances. Mr. Walker lacks the basic experience that a district court judge needs,” the Illinois Democrat said.
Citing his lack of experience, the American Bar Association rated Mr. Walker not qualified.
Typically a judicial nominee needs 12 years of litigation experience to get a good rating from the ABA, but Mr. Walker has been out of law school for only about 10 years.