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Sen. John Kennedy grew increasingly frustrated with one of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees during a Friday Judiciary Committee hearing after she repeatedly refused to directly answer a question that he subsequently asked her nine times.
The nominee, Anne Traum, was nominated by the president to be U.S. district judge for the District of Nevada. The Louisiana Republican began his five-minute time allotment by asking Traum about her beliefs regarding criminal justice.
“Do you think we should forgive criminal misbehavior in the name of social justice?” Kennedy asked.
“Senator, thank you for that question. I recognize that all issues of crime and all responses to crime are fundamentally policy issues. So, those are important issues, they are important for our community and our nation, but I leave those policy issues to the policymakers if confirmed as a judge I would not be a policymaker– ” Traum responded as Kennedy interjected.
“I’m not asking your opinion as a judge. I’m asking your opinion as a person, as a law professor. I’ll stipulate, with all of you, that you’re all going to be fair and unbiased. Now, do you think misbehavior and illegal acts should be forgiven in the name of social justice?” Kennedy pressed.
“Senator, I do believe that all criminal policy is fundamentally a policy issue –” Traum began before Kennedy interjected once again to ask his question.
“Senator, that is not a view that I have taken in my work,” Traum responded.
“That’s no?” Kennedy said. “Is your answer ‘no?’”
The nominee again reiterated that she hasn’t “taken that view” in her official capacity.
“I’m asking, professor, what you believe. I think this is really straightforward. Do you believe that an illegal act should be forgiven in the name of social justice. It’s pretty simple,” Kennedy insisted once more.
“Senator, I believe that we have criminal laws, criminal laws that are created by policy-making bodies like this one — ” Traum attempted to explain before Kennedy interjected one more time.
“I got all that. Do you believe that a criminal act should be forgiven in the name of social justice?” an agitated Kennedy asked.
“We have not only criminal laws but we have a criminal process by which people come before the court to be held accountable if they are charged with a crime. And I have enormous respect for that process,” said Traum.
“I do, too,” Kennedy responded. “Do you believe that a criminal act should be forgiven in the name of social justice?”
The federal bench nom replied by saying that individuals appearing in court have unique cases and she “respects that process,” leading Kennedy to try again with his question.
“I don’t think I could say, with respect to any particular case or as a generality with respect to any category of cases –” Traum began.
“Do you not have an opinion?” Kennedy asked.
“I don’t have a view to share on how any particular kind of case should be handled,” Traum said.
“If confirmed you’re going to be a federal judge. And I join my friend, Sen. Durbin, in saying judicial temperament is important. But I think being unbiased is even more important,” said the Louisiana Republican. “And I find it incredible that you won’t answer my question. So I’m going to ask it again, maybe it’s me. Do you believe that we should forgive a criminal act in the name of social justice?”
“Senator, I share the view that we should be unbiased but I also share the view that our criminal justice system and our process is very individualized so what should happen in any particular case is a matter of the process and the very specific facts and that –” Traum replied, only to be cut off again.
“Do you believe that a criminal act should be forgiven in the name of social justice,” Kennedy once again pressed.
The University of Nevada-Las Vegas law school professor tried to explain that the outcome of each case is individualized before Kennedy interrupted to ask her favorite color.
“Blue,” she said, prompting Kennedy to quip that he’d gotten at least one straight answer.
“I can’t vote for you, not if you’re not going to answer the questions,” Kennedy concluded. “I mean, that was embarrassing.”
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