Senate OKs Fourth Circuit Judge Despite Lack of Experience

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate on Tuesday confirmed a Washington, D.C., lawyer to a position on the Fourth Circuit, as she overcame concerns from Democrats who raised questions about her relatively limited time practicing law.

Approved by a 53-44 vote, Allison Jones Rushing has been out of law school since 2007 and is shy of the 12 years of legal experience the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary suggests for nominees to federal judgeships. Despite falling short of this guideline, Rushing received a qualified rating from the organization.

Since 2011, Rushing has worked at the Washington, D.C., firm Williams & Connolly, becoming a partner at the firm in 2017. Her work there focuses on Supreme Court and appellate litigation and she has filed more than 45 briefs to the Supreme Court and worked on 50 appeals in courts across the country.

While Rushing told senators she has handled cases in the Fourth Circuit, she is not currently licensed to practice law in her native North Carolina, even though she is tapped for a North Carolina seat on the court. She told senators who raised questions about this fact that most of her work is in appellate courts, which do not require an attorney to be licensed with a given state bar to practice.

A member of the right-wing Federalist Society, Rushing’s resume also boasts clerkships with three conservative judges – then-10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch, D.C. Circuit Judge David Sentelle and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Rushing told the Senate Judiciary Committee her experience practicing before appellate courts and her time working closely with experienced judges has left her prepared for a seat on the federal bench, despite being out of law school for less time than many other judicial nominees.

“My experience in the federal courts of appeals and the Supreme Court are why I’m qualified,” Rushing said at her nomination hearing in October. “Not only the depth of that experience, but the variety. The judges on the courts of appeals get a wide variety of cases and I have that experience. In criminal law, prison petitions, product liability, intellectual property, commercial disputes, constitutional issues, a vast array of federal statutes. I’ve litigated all of those cases on appeal and I will be ready when those cases come before me if I am so fortunate as to be confirmed.”

Rushing also faced questions about her time as an intern at the Alliance Defense Fund. Now known as the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed the organization as an anti-LGBT hate group.

She told senators that she never saw anyone at the group “expressing or advocating hate,” and noted many people affiliated with the organization have gone on to prominent careers.

“Members of Congress, including members of this committee, have filed amicus briefs in the Supreme Court supporting ADF’s positions,” Rushing told Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., in response to questions submitted in writing after her nomination hearing. “I do not think members of this committee or large reputable law firms would work with a hate group. I certainly would not.” 

After confirming Rushing, the Senate advanced the nomination of Chad Readler, who is up for a seat on the Sixth Circuit, setting up a confirmation vote later this week.

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