Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) passes through a hallway at the U.S. Capitol on May 4, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Court Requests Probe Into Whether McConnell Unethically Pressured Judge to Retire to Pave Way for His Unqualified Protégé

"Justin Walker's nomination was already controversial, but this emerging investigation means an even darker cloud is hanging over his appointment. The hearing on Walker's nomination should not go forward until we know the truth."

Jake Johnson

A federal court has requested an investigation into whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unethically pressured a judge on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to retire to pave the way for the Kentucky Republican's 38-year-old protégé Justin Walker, who is set for a confirmation hearing for the vacancy on Wednesday.

The New York Times reported late Monday that on May 1, Judge Sri Srinivasan—chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit—"asked Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to assign another circuit to look into a complaint filed by the progressive advocacy group Demand Justice, which questioned the timing and circumstances of Judge Thomas B. Griffith's retirement announcement in early March."

"The hearing on Walker's nomination should not go forward until we know the truth about what ethical lines Mitch McConnell crossed to get Walker this seat."
—Brian Fallon, Demand Justice

On March 19 (pdf), Demand Justice called on Srinivasan to authorize a "prompt inquiry into the majority leader's potential efforts to influence Judge Griffith, perhaps through improper means... particularly because it appears that he has attempted to influence many other federal judges, as well."

The group's request came days after the Times reported that McConnell—who has made ramming through President Donald Trump's right-wing judicial picks his top priority even amid the Covid-19 pandemic—"has been personally reaching out to judges to sound them out on their plans and assure them that they would have a worthy successor if they gave up their seats soon." It is not clear whether McConnell contacted Griffith prior to the judge's retirement.

In a statement Monday night, Demand Justice urged the Senate to postpone Walker's scheduled Judiciary Committee hearing in light of Srinivasan's request for an inquiry.

"Justin Walker's nomination was already controversial, but this emerging investigation means an even darker cloud is hanging over his appointment," said Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice. "The hearing on Walker's nomination should not go forward until we know the truth about what ethical lines Mitch McConnell crossed to get Walker this seat."

"At the very least," said Fallon, "McConnell should come clean about whether and when he contacted Judge Thomas Griffith prior to his sudden retirement."

Walker, a member of the right-wing Federalist Society and former clerk for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, was rated "not qualified" by the American Bar Association when Trump nominated him to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky last October. The Republican-controlled Senate disregarded the rating and confirmed Walker anyway, and now the judge is on the path to a promotion.

Lena Zwarensteyn, Fair Courts Campaign director with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said that Walker's confirmation to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky was "pure nepotism."

"Walker's inexperience and hostility toward access to healthcare and civil rights and public protections make him wholly unfit for this position," said Zwarensteyn. "But equally alarming is the unusual path that has led him to now wield a daunting amount of influence through our courts."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Amid Allegations of Child Endangerment, HHS Inspector General to Probe Fort Bliss Detention Facility

Whistleblowers had sounded alarm about the detention center contractors betraying children’s health and wellbeing.

Andrea Germanos ·


100+ State Lawmakers Join Texas Dems in DC to Demand Passage of For the People Act

"I really want to make sure they understand what we're going through in Florida," said one legislator, calling for "a federal firewall from these state voter suppression activities."

Jessica Corbett ·


Near-Record Temps and Deadly Fires Engulf Southern Europe

"Everything is going to burn. Our land, our animals, and our house."

Andrea Germanos ·


Social Media Platforms Are a 'Safe Space' for Anti-Jewish Hate: Report

"Social media is increasingly unsafe for Jewish people, just as it is becoming for women, Black people, Muslims, LGBT people, and many other groups."

Brett Wilkins ·


Insulated From Patent Waivers, Pfizer and Moderna Hike Vaccine Prices

"Capitalism never fails to not surprise," wrote one observer.

Julia Conley ·