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'Hoo-Boy': Trump's Judicial Nominee Shows No Knowledge of Basic Legal Terms in Hearing

Trump's latest judicial pick further demonstrates the administration's focus on quantity—and cronyism—over the quality of nominees

FEC commissioner Matthew Spencer Petersen was unable to define basic legal terms and procedures and admitted he had never tried a civil or criminal case, in his confirmation hearing for a U.S. District Court appointment. (Photo: @TheAlt_Media/Twitter)

The testimony of one of President Donald Trump's latest judicial nominees went viral Thursday after the potential future U.S. District Court judge was shown to have no knowledge of basic legal terms and little experience in law.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) asked Federal Election Commissioner Matthew Spencer Petersen if he had ever tried a criminal or civil case or a case in a state or federal court, finally questioning whether he had even taken a deposition without supervision from a more senior attorney—the answers to all of which were "no."

Petersen also appeared to be unfamiliar with legal rules dictating court procedures and several examples of legal terminology.


Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) posted about Petersen's testimony on Twitter, expressing shock at his flimsy qualifications for an appointment as a federal judge.

But Petersen is only the latest of Trump's judicial nominees to draw attention for their lack of eligibility. Earlier this week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) urged the Trump administration to withdraw its nominations of Brett Talley and Jeff Mateer, nominated to district courts in Alabama and Texas, respectively.

Talley has been found to have limited legal experience and failed to disclose that he is married to a White House Counsel lawyer, creating a serious conflict of interest should he be nominated, while Mateer has expressed homophobic and transphobic views and has supported LGBTQ "conversion therapy."

As Axios reported, Trump has set a record for the most circuit court judges confirmed in his first year in office, with 12 confirmations—but on social media, critics suggested the president is placing quantity—and cronyism—over quality in his nominating process. Petersen served on the FEC alongside White House Counsel Don McGahn, who now oversees the president's judicial nominations.

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