Kacsmaryk’s disclosure problem

What is it with these wingnut judges and their inability to follow the law?

As a lawyer for a conservative legal group, Matthew Kacsmaryk in early 2017 submitted an article to a Texas law review criticizing Obama-era protections for transgender people and those seeking abortions.

The Obama administration, the draft article argued, had discounted religious physicians who “cannot use their scalpels to make female what God created male” and “cannot use their pens to prescribe or dispense abortifacient drugs designed to kill unborn children.”

But a few months after the piece arrived, an editor at the law journal who had been working with Kacsmaryk received an unusual email: Citing “reasons I may discuss at a later date,” Kacsmaryk, who had originally been listed as the article’s sole author, said he would be removing his name and replacing it with those of two colleagues at his legal group, First Liberty Institute, according to emails and early drafts obtained by The Washington Post.

What Kacsmaryk did not say in the email was that he had already been interviewed for a judgeship by his state’s two senators and was awaiting an interview at the White House.

As part of that process, he was required to list all of his published work on a questionnaire submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, including “books, articles, reports, letters to the editor, editorial pieces, or other published material you have written or edited.”

The article, titled “The Jurisprudence of the Body,” was published in September 2017 by the Texas Review of Law and Politics, a right-leaning journal that Kacsmaryk had led as a law student at the University of Texas. But Kacsmaryk’s role in the article was not disclosed, nor did he list the article on the paperwork he submitted to the Senate in advance of confirmation hearings in which Kacsmaryk’s past statements on LGBT issues became a point of contention.

Now, six years later, as Kacsmaryk sits as a judge in Amarillo, Tex., his strong ideological views have grabbed the country’s attention after his ruling this month that sought to block government approval of a key drug used in more than half of all abortions in the country — an opinion that invoked antiabortion-movement rhetoric and which some medical experts have said relied on debunked claims that exaggerate potential harms of the drug.

Kacsmaryk did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for First Liberty, Hiram Sasser, said that Kacsmaryk’s name had been a “placeholder” on the article and that Kacsmaryk had not provided a “substantive contribution.” Aaron Reitz, who was the journal’s editor in chief at the time and is now a deputy to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), said Kacsmaryk had been “our chief point of contact during much of the editing” and “was the placeholder until final authors were named by First Liberty.”

But one former review editor familiar with the events said there was no indication that Kacsmaryk had been a “placeholder,” adding that this was the only time during their tenure at the law review that they ever saw author names swapped. The former editor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal, provided emails and several drafts of the article.

The circumstances surrounding the article’s authorship raise questions about whether a judicial nominee was seeking to duck scrutiny from a process designed to ensure that judges are prepared to interpret the law without personal bias, said lawyers who worked on judicial nominations in Republican and Democratic administrations — speaking hypothetically and not specifically about Kacsmaryk.

Adam H. Charnes, who worked on judicial nominations while the principal deputy in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy under President George W. Bush, said he would not have advised potential nominees to withdraw articles they had written or to publish them under others’ names.

“I’m pretty sure the Senate would expect you to produce something like that,” Charnes said.

The scenario “strikes me as problematic,” he said — and, he added, “a little shady.”

Ya think? The ludicrous thing is that this probably wouldn’t have tanked his nomination. Kacsmaryk was nominated precisely because he’s a foot soldier in the forced birth wars. Who was going to vote against him, or not want to have to vote for him, among those who supported him if this had come out? As to what happens now, I have no idea, but probably nothing. The story doesn’t suggest any likely consequences. Sure must be nice to be this guy – he’s making the law, and he’s above it. What else could you want?

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