Brett J. Talley has practiced law for less than three years. He has never tried a case — or even argued a motion.
But he does write a spirited, far-right blog: Shortly after the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary, Talley described Barack Obama’s proposal to expand background checks and restrict rapid-fire weapons as “the greatest attack on our constitutional freedoms in our lifetime.” One month later, he endorsed the idea that Americans “will have to resort to arms when our other rights — of speech, press, assembly, representative government — fail to yield the desired results.” During the 2016 campaign he derided the Democratic nominee as “Hillary Rotten Clinton.”
He also went to Harvard Law School, clerked for a couple of federal judges, and made a positive impression on Alabama senator Luther Strange.
President Trump looked over this body of work, and decided the 36-year-old was qualified for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench (the American Bar Association begged to differ). On Friday, the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to second Trump’s assessment. Now, Talley’s nomination will proceed to the Senate floor, where he is widely expected to be confirmed on a party-line vote, just like Trump’s previous judicial nominees.
Of course, if Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, or John McCain wanted to take a substantive stand against president Trump’s defiance of norms — one that wouldn’t require them to compromise their conservative ideals — this would be a great opportunity. There are plenty of conservative jurists in the world. These senators have no reason to confirm a recent law school graduate — who believes Americans will one day need to take up arms against the state — as a federal judge. Yes, the Senate traditionally shows deference to the president on judicial appointments. But these men have all eloquently explained why this particular president deserves little deference — and Talley’s nomination is, itself, an indictment of this White House’s judgment.
Nevertheless, in all likelihood, Talley will sail through. And he’ll be far from the last amateur, far-right ideologue Trump installs in the judiciary. Thanks to Mitch McConnell’s dogged obstruction, the president inherited 100 vacant federal court seats from his predecessor. The Republican Senate has been filling them at a rapid pace. Decades after Trump is gone, progressives will still be seeing his handpicked reactionaries in court.