The American Bar Association on Monday issued a statement deeming Omaha attorney Steve Grasz, who was nominated by President Donald Trump to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, to be "not qualified" to serve on the federal court.
The rare ABA designation of a federal court nominee comes two days before Grasz is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing.
In a statement issued in conjunction with the ABA announcement, the chairperson of the committee that submitted the recommendation cited concerns about "temperament issues, particularly bias and lack of open-mindedness" by Grasz.
The ABA statement written by Pam Bresnahan, a Washington attorney, said many members of the committee that reviewed his nomination "questioned whether Mr. Grasz would be able to detach himself from his deeply held social agenda and political loyalty to be able to judge objectively, with compassion and without bias."
Grasz served as chief deputy attorney general for Nebraska from 1991 to 2002 and has been legal counsel for Pete Ricketts for Governor, formerly served as general counsel for the Nebraska Republican Party and was legal counsel for Nebraskans for the Death Penalty.
Bresnahan pointed to ABA concerns about "the nominee's deep connection and allegiance to the most powerful politicians in his state" along with questions about whether Grasz's "pro-life agenda" would color his judicial decisions.
Grasz has stated that he spends about 50 percent of his professional time lobbying and 50 percent of his time in litigation, Bresnahan said in her report.
The ABA report noted "a reluctance on the part of (some) members of the Nebraska bar" to respond to questions about Grasz and cited some responses that "expressed the view that he would be unable to separate his role as an advocate from that of a judge."
Grasz was recommended to the White House by Republican Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse.
Sasse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said "it's sad that the ABA would contort their ratings process to try to tarnish Steve's professional reputation in order to drive a political agenda."
Grasz "knows that under our Constitution, judges don't write laws but rule fairly on the facts of each case," Sasse said.