The Alliance for Justice’s Baseless Attack on Wendy Vitter 

by JCN | March 16th, 2018

The far-left Alliance for Justice (AFJ) has attacked district court nominee Wendy Vitter by (1) accusing her of omitting public comments from her Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire; (2) demonizing her for her views on abortion and Syrian refugee resettlement; (3) questioning the depth of her experience; and (4) attempting to tar her with criticism of the district attorney’s office she worked for. Note how scurrilous and hypocritical these attacks are: 

(1) AFJ ominously criticizes Vitter for “significant omissions” in her Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire, apparently because her initial submission did not include every instance of public commentary on her part. They invite innuendo that any omissions were intentional while AFJ’s account has omissions of its own: Vitter in fact supplemented her initial questionnaire responses to the Committee with 95 pages of attachments covering over 180 speeches, articles, and interviews. These covered the span of 30 years, during which time the nominee had an enormous number of appearances and interviews, which included those occasioned by the seven political campaigns and 25 years of elective office of her husband, former Senator David Vitter. Far from concealing her views, the submission cited a pro-life award she received and a pro-life group’s event she chaired. Yet given her unique background, the sheer volume of her appearances should render some inadvertent omissions expected, and—as AFJ also fails to mention—she has remedied those omissions with a supplemental filing to the Committee well in advance of her hearing. 

To illustrate AFJ’s double standard, consider that Obama Ninth Circuit nominee Goodwin Liu, a law professor who did not have anything like Vitter’s speaking schedule, initially failed to produce over 100 writings and speeches to the Committee, several of which revealed his far-left views. But that did not stop AFJ from actively rallying support for his confirmation. 

(2) AFJ criticizes Vitter for expressing pro-life views during a 2013 panel she moderated. Specifically,            they reference her praise of Texas’ efforts to restrict abortion while that state’s law, H.B. 2, was facing a challenge in court. The law, which aimed to improve the standard of care at clinics, was passed in reaction to the abhorrent practices at Kermit Gosnell’s clinic and attempted to ensure that nothing of the kind would occur in the Lone Star state.  

AFJ also criticizes Vitter not for an opinion she expressed directly, but for recommending that the panel’s audience bring some available doctor-produced brochures on the health risks of abortion to their own doctors. As an attorney, Vitter does not conduct medical research or advance medical conclusions. As a panel moderator, she was encouraging dialogue based on the materials distributed at the event. Of course, AFJ wishes to disqualify the nominee for being pro-life, which is at odds with their own strident agenda of judicially imposed abortion on demand without even modest regulation. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a margin of 96 to 3 on the principle that a nominee’s personal views are irrelevant to her task as a judge; this despite Ginsburg’s prior writing advocating lowering the age of consent to 12, legalizing prostitution, and rejecting single-sex institutions from prisons to children’s organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.  

AFJ also seems to deem Vitter’s opposition to unfettered resettlement of Syrian refugees a disqualifier despite the widespread concerns Americans share with her and the security threats that accompanied insufficiently vetted resettlement in Europe. 

(3) Possibly the most laughable criticism by AFJ is the suggestion that Vitter lacks relevant experience. They downplay the fact that she has “litigated extensively in state court during her time as a prosecutor” because, they charge, “her record reveals a lack of federal trial experience,” citing a report that there was only one recorded instance in which she served as a counsel in a federal case while at the firm Abbott and Meeks. Taking the latter point first, AFJ misleads when it fails to mention that the senior partner at her firm attested she did a substantial amount of legal work on many federal cases. In fact, the vast majority of cases she worked on at Abbott were in federal court, and she handled all aspects of federal litigation. Also, as general counsel to the Archdiocese of New Orleans, a position she has held the last six years, she has handled a host of federal legal issues, including numerous aspects of labor and employment law, immigration law, tax law, and the First Amendment. Her experience has been well balanced between about 40% civil and 60% criminal matters. Many judicial nominees have little to no experience handling criminal matters. 

But AFJ’s most glaring offense is dismissing her litigation experience as a state prosecutor. She has tried over 100 jury trials—20 times more than many nominees to federal judgeships. To suggest that a nominee’s experience is irrelevant when it occurs in state court flies in the face of the federal bench’s rich history of being occupied by state court litigators and judges. This includes Earl Warren, many liberals’ ideal of a chief justice, and Sandra Day O’Connor, both of whom were appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court with legal experience almost exclusively in state courts where they dealt with state law. And they were nominated to a far more powerful position than district court. AFJ had no problem with district court judges nominated by Presidents Clinton and Obama with 95% or more of their experience in state courts, such as Mary Ann Lemmon, Jane Milazzo, and Joseph Leeson.  

For anyone still in doubt, just consider how ardently AFJ advocated for two nominees who had never tried a single case to verdict or judgment in state or federal court—Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court and Gordon Liu for the Ninth Circuit—and the organization’s double standard is exposed as the farce that it is. 

(4) AFJ’s remaining attack is one of guilt by association, pointing out instances in which the office of the district attorney for whom she worked was cited for failure to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense in accordance with what is known as the Brady rule. None of the cited instances purported to involve Vitter, and she never faced any complaints that she failed to produce Brady evidence. There was a newspaper story in 2010 that erroneously listed her as an attorney in a case allegedly involving prosecutorial misconduct, but the newspaper subsequently issued a correction, noting that she was not involved in the case. 

Vitter is a woman who emerged from hardship, losing her mother at age 6 and her father at age 19, to devote herself to a life of serving others. She decided to forego more financially rewarding options in favor of distinguished service as a prosecutor and more recently as general counsel for the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans. AFJ is attacking her because she is pro-life and the wife of a conservative former senator who for years was a thorn in their side. The organization’s criticisms attempt to disguise as lofty an agenda that is brazenly political.