Donald Trump federal judge nominee is asked basic legal questions and can’t answer a single one

Matthew Spencer Petersen admits he has never tried a criminal or civil case under questioning from senators

Tom Barnes@thomas_barnes
Friday 15 December 2017 12:58
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Republican Sen John Kennedy asks one of Donald Trump's District Judge nominees basic questions of law & he can’t answer a single one

One of Donald Trump’s nominees to become a federal judge has failed to answer a string of basic questions about law.

Matthew Spencer Petersen admitted he was unfamiliar with several common legal terms during questioning by Republican Senator John Kennedy at a hearing earlier this week.

Mr Petersen, a member of the Federal Election Commission, had been selected by the President to become a federal judge on the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

However, he admitted during questioning that he had never tried a criminal or civil trial.

Video of the hearing posted to Twitter by Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, showed Mr Peterson failing to explain basic legal terms such as “motion in limine” - a request filed by a party to a lawsuit which asks the court for an order or ruling limiting or preventing certain evidence from being presented by the other side at the trial of the case.

Mr Petersen attempted to defend his poor knowledge of terminology to senators.

He told the hearing: “My background is not in litigation. I understand the challenge ahead of me if I were fortunate enough to become a district court judge. I understand that the path that many successful district court judges have taken has been a different one than I have taken.”

Senator Kennedy responded: “I have read your resume. Just for the record, do you know what a motion in limine is?

Mr Peterson replied: “I would probably not be able to give you a good definition.”

President Trump has already been forced to withdraw another judicial nominee this week amid concerns over his lack of experience.

Brett Talley, who was being lined up for a lifetime Alabama federal judgeship, had never tried a case and had only been practicing law for three years.

Mr Talley had been described by the American Bar Association as “not qualified” and drew criticism for failing to disclose he was married to a White House lawyer when asked about potential conflicts of interest.

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