Chicago Politics At Its Grubbiest!

by Jonathan Chait | March 4, 2010

John McCormack at the Weekly Standard has a splashy headline today: "Obama Now Selling Judgeships For Health Care Votes?" The story turns out to be that Obama is nominating Scott Matheson, Jr. to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Matheson's brother is a member of Congress whose health care vote Obama would very much like. So now he's giving his brother a federal judgeship! So, let's meet this hack:

Scott M. Matheson currently holds the Hugh B. Brown Presidential Endowed Chair at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1985.  He served as Dean of the Law School from 1998 to 2006.  He also taught First Amendment Law at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government from 1989 to 1990. 
While on public service leave from the University of Utah from 1993 to 1997, Matheson served as United States Attorney for the District of Utah.  In 2007, he was appointed by Governor Jon Huntsman to chair the Utah Mine Safety Commission.  He also worked as a Deputy County Attorney for Salt Lake County from 1988 to 1989.  Prior to joining the University faculty, Matheson was an associate attorney from 1981 to 1985 at Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington, D.C.
Matheson was born and raised in Utah and is a sixth generation Utahn.  He received an A.B. from Stanford University in 1975, an M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1980.

In other words, Obama is putting some Congressman's unemployable brother on the federal dole. McCormack, before proceeding to speculate that the nomination is intended to pay off his brother, does concede, "Matheson appears to have the credentials to be a judge." Come on, let's not be so naive here. Sure, he's a Stanford alum, Rhodes scholar, Yale Law School graduate, Harvard profesor, U.S. Attorney, and law school dean. Maybe that makes him "qualified" by the rock-bottom standards of this administration, even if he's no Harriet Miers.

But isn't it a little suspicious that Obama selects him now, even if the vetting process no doubt took many months? And why him? Surely there are plenty of other Stanford-Oxford-Yale-Harvard-U.S. Attorney-Law School Dean types with Democratic-friendly records to be found in Utah, right?

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