Sarah Pitlyk is Trump’s 172nd Judge Appointment, and She’s Awful
She’s unanimously “Not Qualified,” but that didn’t stop the Senate from confirming her.
This week, the Senate confirmed radical anti-choice lawyer Sarah Pitlyk as a federal district judge (49–44), despite her rare, unanimous “Not Qualified” rating from the American Bar Association.
Here’s William C. Hubbard — chair of the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary — explaining why they all declared Pitlyk “Not Qualified”:
“Ms. Pitlyk has never tried a case as lead or co-counsel, whether civil or criminal. She has never examined a witness. Though Ms. Pitlyk has argued one case in a court of appeals, she has not taken a deposition. She has not argued any motion in a state or federal trial court. She has never picked a jury. She has never participated at any stage of a criminal matter.”
She’s never tried a case. So what has she done?
She clerked for Brett Kavanaugh, then when he was credibly accused of sexual assault, she co-wrote an opinion piece for Fox News, writing Kavanaugh was “one of the most honorable men we have had the privilege to know” and “a champion for women’s equality.”
As special counsel to the Thomas More Society, an ultraconservative anti-abortion law firm in Chicago, she worked to oppose not just abortion rights, but access to birth control as well.
She’s even fought against IVF and surrogacy. Surrogacy, she argued, “has grave effects on society, such as diminished respect for motherhood and the unique mother/child bond; exploitation of women; commodification of gestation and of children themselves; and weakening of appropriate social mores against eugenic abortion.”
(Since she’s against surrogacy, can we at least assume she’ll pick a different dystopian future for us than the Handmaid’s Tale one we thought we were getting?)
In my essay A Fertilized Egg is Not a Human Being, I quote Alabama Republican State Senator Clyde Chambliss, who, when asked if Alabama’s almost-total abortion ban would punish those at IVF clinics who discard embryos or fertilized eggs, replied, “The egg in the lab doesn’t apply. It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.”
Conservatives like Chambliss care more about controlling women (and anyone with a uterus) than they do embryos. Meanwhile, Pitlyk wants the government to control embryos no matter where they are. She argued to “codify in Missouri’s statutes that which is already a scientific fact: human life begins at the moment when a human sperm fertilizes a human egg.” The problem? This isn’t a scientific fact. This is an anti-choice opinion.
The Alabama anti-abortion law so far hasn’t gone into effect only because of a preliminary injunction by another district judge: Judge Myron Thompson (who was nominated by Jimmy Carter in 1980).
Thompson argued, “Alabama’s abortion ban contravenes clear Supreme Court precedent. It violates the right of an individual to privacy, to make choices central to personal dignity and autonomy. It diminishes the capacity of women to act in society, and to make reproductive decisions. It defies the United States Constitution.”
Thompson using his judicial power to uphold the Constitution and protect reproductive privacy is a reminder of how important federal judges are. Since federal judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, our votes are vital to keeping unqualified Conservative radicals like Pitlyk out of the courts. However, since every state gets only two senators, regardless of population, your vote doesn’t count as much if you live somewhere populous.
This week, every Republican present except Maine’s Susan Collins voted to confirm Pitlyk to her lifetime position on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. (Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski’s would also have voted to oppose, if she had been present, according to her spokesperson.)
Every single Democrat present voted to oppose Pitlyk’s confirmation, but it was not enough votes.
Pitlyk is so obviously not qualified for her new job. But the problem reaches far beyond one person. The Senate’s already confirmed 172 Trump-nominees as Article III federal judges. They’re almost all white — 70% are white men — and they, of course, include two Supreme Court justices. (Keep doing those pushups, Ruth Bader Ginsberg!)
Rulings right now could have longstanding precedent. But also, judges are appointed for life, so unless we get a blue wave big enough to impeach them (yes, we can impeach judges too!), these radical conservative judges will continue to issue rulings for decades to come.
Relatively young appointees like Pitlyk — she’s 42 — might still be on the bench chipping away at our great-grandchildren’s body autonomy (assuming we’ve somehow survived climate change and we have any legal autonomy left to take).
Did your senator vote to confirm Pitlyk? Give them a call and tell them what you think of this unanimously “Not Qualified” judge. Then make sure you’re registered, and vote them out!