New Report Details Shortcomings and Disturbing Background of ‘Unqualified’ Nominee Michael Wallace

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 25, 2006

Contact: Josh Glasstetter, PFAW, 202-467-2301 at Kelly Landis, AFJ, 202-464-7350

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Washington, DC—People For the American Way and Alliance for Justice today released a new report analyzing the record of Michael Wallace, whose nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is expected to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee shortly. The report details Mr. Wallace’s record, including his tenure on the board of the Legal Services Corporation, as an aide to Senator Trent Lott, and his published writings.

Wallace has the ignominious distinction of being the first federal court of appeals nominee in nearly twenty-five years to be rated unanimously “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. The rating was based on Wallace’s professional qualifications – or lack thereof – and not his judicial philosophy. But the new report from AFJ and PFAW documents Mr. Wallace’s legal views, which are openly contemptuous of many of the rights and protections that Americans cherish.

Wallace, who has no judicial experience, has spent much of his career, both in government and private practice, working on behalf of right-wing causes. He has personally embraced far-right legal positions and has demonstrated either an inability or an unwillingness to prevent his beliefs from interfering with his professional obligations. For example:

  • He has testified that he “personally” believed that the Reagan Justice Department “was correct” in arguing that Bob Jones University should receive tax-exempt status despite its racially discriminatory policies.
  • He vigorously opposed bipartisan legislation that restored the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act in 1982 and then argued in court that the law did not do so, despite clear congressional language to the contrary.
  • As chair of the Legal Services Corporation, he received significant criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike for seeking to undermine the agency. He authorized the use of LSC funds to lobby Congress for cuts in LSC’s budget and to pay right-wing lawyers to prepare a memo arguing for LSC’s abolition.

“Michael Wallace is an unapologetic throwback to the bad old days,” said Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice. “The federal courts demand better than a nominee chosen for his adherence to the conservative agenda rather than his fitness for the bench.”

“The president has a knack for nominating unqualified partisans to the federal bench, but this nomination is a new low,” added Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way. “If the president seriously wanted a judge who would ‘interpret the law, not try to make law from the bench,’ he would have dismissed Wallace out of hand. Wallace is a far right judicial activist in waiting.”

The report from AFJ and PFAW is available online here: