TAMPA, Fla. (NEXSTAR) — Federal judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the CDC’s mask mandate for public transportation on Monday. According to the American Bar Association, she was “not qualified” for her position in 2020 when Pres. Donald Trump nominated her.
Following a peer review of her qualifications, the majority of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) standing committee had found Mizelle’s courtroom experience and accomplishments to be lacking. The ABA addressed its concerns in a letter to Sens. Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein on Sept. 8, 2020.
More specifically, the ABA’s evaluation of Mizelle noted that she did not have the minimum recommended “12 years’ experience in the practice of law,” having begun her professional career in 2012. Fewer than 12 years of experience does not necessarily disqualify a nominee, the ABA noted, but Mizelle had also “not tried a case, civil or criminal, as lead or co-counsel” before her nomination, they wrote.
In the eight years between passing the bar and her nomination, Mizelle worked as a law clerk for several federal judges, a special assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia, a counsel to the Office of the Associate Attorney General, a trial attorney for the Department of Justice, and for a year at a private practice in D.C., her biography states.
These positions translated into roughly “5 years of experience in the trial courts,” the ABA said. “In view of the importance of substantial courtroom and trial experience as it relates to professional competence to serve as a lifetime Article III judge, the Standing Committee accordingly has concluded—after a thorough peer review evaluation and careful deliberation—that the nominee presently does not meet the requisite minimum standard of experience necessary to perform the responsibilities required by the high office of a federal trial judge.”
The ABA wrote, however, that Mizelle’s resume was nonetheless impressive, lauding her work ethic and “keen intellect.” According to its judicial ratings guidelines, nominees are not judged on ideology, political affiliation, or personal philosophies by the ABA. Instead, they evaluate “integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament.”
The ABA also does not rate or review judges’ decisions after they have been appointed to a federal role. Still, only between 1% and 3% of federal judges are deemed “Not Qualified” after an ABA evaluation, as the vast majority have been deemed “Qualified” or even “Well Qualified.”
Mizelle, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, was in the news Monday after she struck the CDC’s mask mandate as unlawful, despite the mandate having recently been extended by the agency through May 3. In her 59-page ruling, she said the decision to enact the requirement exceeded the CDC’s authority.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the Biden administration still recommends wearing masks on airplanes. The CDC also continues to recommend masking on flights and other forms of mass transportation, despite no longer enforcing the order.
In the wake of Mizelle’s ruling, many major U.S. airlines made their masking requirements optional on domestic flights. Some noted, however, that the mandate still applied to travelers where mask ordinances remain in effect.