Biden judicial nominee under fire for alleged lack of legal knowledge, experience

President Biden’s nominee for a federal judgeship in Washington state is facing intense scrutiny for what critics call an insufficient resume after already triggering backlash over her nomination when she recently failed to answer simple questions about the Constitution. Judge Charnelle Bjelkengren of the Spokane County Superior Court made headlines last month during her confirmation hearing to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bjelkengren was quizzed about basic knowledge of the Constitution. “Tell me what Article V of the Constitution does,” asked Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). SEN. KENNEDY STUMPS BIDEN NOMINEE WITH BASIC QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION “Article V is not coming to mind at the moment,” Bjelkengren responded. “How about Article II?” Kennedy pressed. “Neither is Article II,” Bjelkengren admitted. Kennedy then asked Bjelkengren, a graduate of Gonzaga University School of Law, to define “purposivism,” an approach to interpreting statutory law. Bjelkengren similarly had no answer. “In my 12 years as an assistant attorney general, in my nine years as a judge, I was not faced with that precise question,” she said. “We are the highest trial court in Washington state, so I’m frequently faced with issues that I’m not familiar with, and I thoroughly review the law, I research, and apply the law to the facts presented to me.” The embarrassing scene quickly went viral. A similar incident occurred in 2017, when Matthew Petersen, a lawyer nominated by then-President Trump to serve as a federal judge, couldn’t answer basic legal questions. Petersen subsequently withdrew his nomination from consideration. FLASHBACK: JOHN KENNEDY IN 2017 GRILLED A TRUMP JUDICIAL NOMINEE FOR LACK OF LEGAL EXPERIENCE; DEMS APPLAUDED Bjelkengren is still Biden’s nominee but may face further scrutiny, potentially putting her nomination in jeopardy. Beyond her legal knowledge, at issue is Bjelkengren’s experience. On her Senate Judiciary questionnaire for her nomination, Bjelkengren was asked to provide details about the “10 most significant litigated matters which you handled.” Bjelkengren listed only six, including one case in which she lost to someone on appeal who forewent legal counsel and was representing herself.  “At no stage of her professional career has this judge focused on federal law. At no point has she ever even appeared in federal court,” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor last week. “Is this the caliber of legal expert with which President Biden is filling the federal bench? For lifetime appointments? Is the bar for merit and excellence really set this low?” Bjelkengren worked for several years as an assistant attorney general in Washington state. She primarily served as an administrative law judge, representing the Department of Licensing in drivers’ license revocation hearings and the Employment Security Department in unemployment benefits cases. If confirmed, Bjelkengren would be the first woman of color to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington and the first Black woman to serve on a federal district court in the state of Washington. Critics have blasted the Biden administration for allegedly pursuing diversity over merit. BIDEN ADMIN UNDER FIRE FOR PURSUING DIVERSITY OVER MERIT: THEY’RE FINDING PEOPLE ‘WHO AREN’T HIGHLY-SKILLED’ “This is what happens when diversity and so-called ‘equity’ are prioritized over experience and qualifications,” Mike Davis, founder and president of the Article III Project, told Fox News Digital. “Charnelle Bjelkengren has no business filling a lifetime seat on the federal bench. She wasn’t able to answer basic questions about the Constitution that any first year law student should know. That should be immediately disqualifying.” Davis, who formerly served as chief counsel for nominations to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), noted that Bjelkengren couldn’t list the minimum number of cases requested by the committee that she handled before reiterating his belief that the nominee is unqualified. “Bjelkengren obviously lacks the experience, qualifications, and readiness to serve,” he said. “Her nomination is purely a result of having the right politics, the right demographics, and the right friends.” WHITE HOUSE SAYS BIDEN ‘PROUDLY’ STICKS BY JUDICIAL NOMINEE, DESPITE HER FLUNKING KENNEDY’S CONSTITUTION QUIZ Beyond the Biden administration, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) publicly championed Bjelkengren’s nomination. “For years, now, Washington Democrats’ rhetoric around judicial nominations has often treated actual qualifications as an afterthought,” said McConnell. “Democrats were not particularly impressed or moved by the top-shelf professional excellence or the academic brilliance that the last Republican administration’s nominees possessed in spades. And apparently, they don’t count those qualities as particularly high priorities now that they’re the ones doing the nominating.” McConnell was instrumental in the Senate confirming a historic number of judges nominated by Trump. The top Senate Republican also slammed the Biden administration for “siding against the American people, against the Constitution, against the rule of law,” listing several examples of the courts slapping down various administration policies in case after case. Neither Bjelkengren nor the White House responded to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment for this story. However, the White House told Fox News Digital after Bjelkengren’s botched confirmation hearing that Biden is “proudly” sticking by his judicial nominee.
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