Tim Fox-Backed Lawrence VanDyke Found Unqualified for the Bench by the American Bar Association, Cries Kavanaughian Tears

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.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • This was a shameful article, replete with distortions and half-truths. No wonder high schools are graduating increasing numbers of functional illiterates and civics deprived adults.

    • Since a personal attack about my professionalism seems to be substituting for argument here, the AP scores my students have received over the past decade are a matter of public record. One of the things I teach my students is that argument demands evidence and analysis. Your ad hominem attack does little to support your claim that my article is “replete with distortions and half-truths.”

      If you can manage an argument that has evidence, I’d be happy to continue the discussion. If not, I score this a solid C-.

      • Don

        I would first like to ask if you were trying to be objective (without personal biases) when writing this piece? If so, when you used the ABA evaluation as your evidence; do you really believe that the evaluation was objective and non-biased? Since there is sincere disagreement about this ABA evaluation’s neutrality; don’t you have an obligation to give fair treatment to all sides. (Assuming you are trying to be objective).

        I’m trying to figure out what nuggets of truth are real without biases, regarding Mr. VanDyke. Your piece fails. I wish I would have known that you were just trying to win a high school debate competition … I would not have wasted my time. I would have skipped this article (class) you penned.

        Regards …

        • A couple of key points. Given the headline, the tone of the piece, and the fact that this site proudly notes that it offers “progressive politics from the Big Sky,” expecting objectivity seems rather foolish.

          But one can have an agenda or be partisan and still be accurate. This piece is.

          There are certainly sites that can provide you an alternative viewpoint, but this site is–and always has been–about presenting commentary and opinion.

          I’m always happy to debate the merits of a piece, but criticizing this for not being an objective news story is a bit like reviewing a Thai restaurant negatively because it doesn’t serve pizza.

          • With a professional facade this format provides; I was hoping that there would be professional writers that would do more than be a circus barker. It’s obvious that you don’t want to do anything to improve things for the future … think house divided … That’s right; he was a progressive also.
            I believe you’re better than a circus barker! So regardless if you prefer Thai food or Taco Bell; having professional integrity doesn’t grant you permission to run with a dog whistle … unless you’re a clown??
            My dad used to say; Son, some people just like to clean barns and it’s funny how they can’t figure out how other people know.
            Good luck and I hope that you choose to be better than this article.

            • Thank you so much for your insightful criticism.

              Its absence of substance is matched only by its absence of value.

              If you’d care to dispute any of the facts in the piece, I’d be open to discussion. Somehow, I suspect that won’t be the tactic you choose.

              • OK Don, promise last time you have to hear from me regarding this article. Here’s the story:

                After listening/reading to this link (https://www.foxnews.com/politics/attorneys-legal-review-of-trump-pick-after-emotional-hearing); I thought to myself; I wonder what the other side “really thinks”?? Thus through the wonders of google; I read your article.
                There is sincere disagreement about Marcia Davenport’s objectivity. I just wondering if it matters to the progressive side about being objective or do they just care about running around in a three ring circus. From your responses, I do know your preferences. Having said that; I do have one last question that is going to have you hitting “off” button and throw a temper tantrum (with flames) … Here it goes; as a person of faith where it’s THE most important thing in my life; I wonder if the people you feed with your articles really understand that we Christians have a duty to act as though we are working for Christ himself.
                As I watched Mr. VanDyke during part of his hearing; I did the “Lumber Trading” thing to get close to the truth … believe nothing of what you hear and half of what you see and you’ll be close to the truth. I’m not trying to convince you of anything. And I’m certain that you have crucified me since I’ve mentioned the “faith” bit; but I am just wondering what type of truth do you believe in? It is your truth I am sure; but is it really the truth? I would appreciate it if you be more objective in getting close to the truth as a professional writer. I do not care that you advocate a different position than I!! But when you “Lumber Trade” the VanDyke hearing; I’m thinking his heart is pierced by a biased Marcia Davenport.

                Did Ms. Davenport hear those things? Yes I believe she did. Did she fairly write the ABA report; I do not believe so. For those of us who care about truth; I thought I’d do my part and encourage you to be better than this article.

                All my best

                • You don’t have to take VanDyke or Davenport’s word. You need merely look at Mr. VanDyke’s career.

                  The evidence is clear: he has repeatedly worked to strip rights from the LGBTQ community. He has written amicus briefs to deny them the right to marry, to permit discrimination against them in commerce, to permit discrimination against them in schools. He chose to work for an organization that called for the criminalization of of same sex sexual behavior.

                  For VanDyke to claim that he is the victim of bias here is breathtakingly hypocritical, as he has spent a large part of his legal career attempting to make his bias against the LGBTQ community legal discrimination.

                  And please stop pretending that you are being objective when you are, without any evidence, choosing to believe VanDyke’s assertion that Marcia Davenport lied in her report. You’ve made your choice to believe VanDyke, but don’t for a minute believe you’ve objectively chosen to evaluate the facts. You’ve just chosen to believe someone who thinks discrimination is okay.

    • The post seems pretty damn accurate to me, April. Maybe you’re one of the “functional illiterates and civics deprived adults?” And Don, a C- seems pretty generous to me.

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