I am never going to be the kind of person who celebrates another person’s tears, but I’ve never been more tempted then when I watched the video of former Montana Solicitor General and current Trump Appellate court nominee Lawrence VanDyke crying crocodile tears during his confirmation hearing.
VanDyke was brought to tears by the American Bar Association’s assessment that he is “not qualified” to serve as a federal judge. In their evaluation of VanDyke, based on 60 interviews, they pulled no punches:
“Mr. VanDyke’s accomplishments are offset by the assessments of interviewees that Mr. VanDyke is arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to-day practice including procedural rules,” William C. Hubbard, chair of the ABA’s standing committee on the federal judiciary, wrote. “There was a theme that the nominee lacks humility, has an ‘entitlement’ temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful.”
While being an arrogant, lazy, unqualified, and uninformed liar would describe the current occupant of the Oval Office well, the American Bar Association’s rating of judges as “qualified” or not has long served as a check on nominations for federal appeals courts, given the lifetime appointments and enormous power of these positions.
VanDyke’s emotional outburst seemed to have been sparked by the ABA’s conclusion that he could not be fair to LGBTQ people and causes if appointed to the bench.
And that concern is well-founded. As MT Cowgirl pointed out back in 2014, VanDyke was connected with “the Christian Reconstructionism movement, which the Southern Poverty Law Center says is “a theocratic movement that seeks to demolish American democracy and replace it with the legal code of the Old Testament, which calls for stoning to death adulterers, homosexuals and in some cases, wayward children.”
While he served as Montana Solicitor General, VanDyke put those views to work, writing amicus briefs in support of his personal, discriminatory views. As Ed Kemmick noted at Last Best News:
Adams’ examined those emails and reported that VanDyke had spent “a significant amount of time” as our solicitor general writing amicus or “friend of the court” briefs filed in other states. Many of those cases dealt with constitutional challenges to state and federal laws regarding abortion, gun rights and same-sex marriage.
In every case he took hard-right stands. In an amicus brief in an Arizona case he called for the reconsideration of Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion-rights case. In another email urging Fox to get involved in the case of a photographer in New Mexico who refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, VanDyke called it “an important case for the future of religious freedom in America.”
So you’ll forgive me if I’m unpersuaded by VanDyke’s emotional outburst when he was confronted with his hostility to the LGBTQ community. While VanDyke may have been trying to win over the panel with an emotional display meant to evoke the Kavanaugh hearing, what he really reminded us is that he’s just another bigot who, while incapable of expressing concern for his fellow human beings, expects us to have pity when he’s been exposed for just who he is.
I’ll reserve my tears for the LGBTQ kids VanDyke thinks it should be legal to discriminate against, thank you.
VanDyke is unqualified for the Court. And, not to pile on, but it’s not just because he is a bigot who will use the bench to impose his troubling theocracy. He’s a terrible lawyer and scholar, as others who have worked with him have noted.
As a final note, it’s worth mention that Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Tim Fox has offered unqualified VanDyke his unqualified support. That’s not at all surprising, as Fox has turned his Justice Department into a hotbed of discrimination and hired other attorneys whose antediluvian views threaten the equal rights of the LGBTQ community, a story that simply has not been addressed by the Montana press.
VanDyke should never sit on the federal bench. Montanans were smart enough to oppose his dark money-fueled bid for the Supreme Court, but a Republican-controlled Senate that seems to regard bigotry and incompetence as badges of honor will likely confirm him.
Perhaps we can’t change that, but we can–and should–demand that Tim Fox explain why he’s so drawn to those who want to use the courts to discriminate.