At a Wednesday hearing, Republican Louisiana Senator John Kennedy stumped one of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees, Sara E. Hill, on basic legal definitions. The Senator’s line of questioning caused Hill to struggle to explain the difference between a “stay order” and an “injunction.” Kennedy, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, highlighted the deficiency in basic legal knowledge, calling into question the caliber of Biden’s judicial nominees.
The two terms, “stay order” and “injunction,” are fundamental legal terms that are taught early on in law schools. With Kennedy’s questioning, Hill’s answer betrayed her lack of knowledge. “A stay order would prohibit, um…sorry, an injunction would restrain the parties from taking action, a stay order…I’m not actually sure I can give you that,” Hill answered.
Kennedy’s questioning is the latest in a pattern of embarrassing confrontations with judicial nominees put forward by the Biden Administration. In March, Kennedy asked basic questions on the U.S. Constitution, legal procedure and Supreme Court precedents to which judicial nominee S. Kato Crews could not provide satisfactory answers. Kennedy exposed the same lack of expertise in May while questioning Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias.
The seemingly unpreparedness of Biden’s judicial nominees brings into question the president’s criteria for selecting them. Republicans have long voiced their concerns over Biden’s one-sided approach to judicial appointments.
When posed with a follow-up question about Biden’s lack of consideration for other political opinions, Kennedy responded, “If you’re the president of the United States and you can only find people to recommend to be appointed as a federal judge who… agree with your political views, then you’re an extraordinarily ideological president. That’s not the way the Constitution should work.”
The Biden Administration continues to be heavily criticized for this partisan approach to judicial appointments. Democrats’ need for favorable rulings on issues like abortion and voter rights are not lost on Republicans, and so they continue to scrutinize Biden’s appointments. With the Senate Judiciary Committee failing to adequately vet the nominees, it remains to be seen whether the Biden Administration will be up to the task of ensuring that each of America’s nominated judges meet the standards of competence and integrity required.