Trump’s nominee for top judicial role has never heard a case before and was deemed ‘not qualified’ by the bar association

Avatar photo

By Thomas Connelly on

And he’s reportedly under fire for not disclosing wife’s White House role

President Donald Trump has punted for a 36-year-old Harvard law graduate who has never tried a case to fill a lifetime judicial vacancy.

Brett Talley has inched closer to becoming a district judge in his home state of Alabama after receiving the backing of the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC). The committee — in which Republicans outnumber Democrats — voted in favour of Talley’s nomination. It will now move to a full Senate vote.

So what do we know about Talley? Well, given his relatively short legal career, not a great deal.

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

He graduated from Harvard Law School in 2007, before working as an associate for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a US law firm which also has an office in London. The relatively unknown lawyer also clerked in the Federal District Court and US Court of Appeal. Talley enjoys writing horror novels in his spare time, and currently serves as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice.

While Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Talley is “more than qualified to serve in the federal judiciary”, Trump’s pick hasn’t gone down well with everyone.

The American Bar Association (ABA), which vets federal judicial nominees, rated Talley “not qualified”. Meanwhile, senator Richard Durbin questioned the young lawyer’s suitability for the role. During a Judiciary Committee meeting he put this question to Talley:

“How can you claim to be qualified for a lifetime appointment to supervise federal trials on a daily basis when you have never yourself tried a single case?”

In response Talley — who worked as a senior writer on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign — flagged up examples where he had argued motions in the Federal District Court, often through written briefs.

Now, Trump’s pick has come under fire overnight for failing to disclose his wife’s role at the White House. It has emerged that Talley is married to fellow Harvard law grad Ann Donaldson, the chief of staff to White House counsel Donald F McGahn II. A New York Times report states:

“Mr Talley was asked on his publicly released Senate questionnaire to identify family members and others who are ‘likely to present potential conflicts of interest.’ He did not mention his wife.”

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek's careers events:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub

Related Stories

‘Active, aggressive and long-winded’: verdict on Trump’s Supreme Court appointee

US media sizes up Neil Gorsuch's first court appearances

Apr 21 2017 1:29pm

11 ways in which the teachings of Donald Trump can guide lawyers to success

Reinterpreting the preposterous Art of the Deal

Apr 8 2016 10:44am

‘What’s the meaning of life?’ and other surreal questions asked to Trump’s Supreme Court nominee this week

We spoke to a constitutional law expert to find out more about America's heavily-politicised judicial system

Mar 24 2017 10:38am