A couple years ago, in 2007, John Brownlee was being considered for a judgeship in the Eastern District of Virginia. However, his bestest buddy John Warner (Warner has a “close relationship” with Brownlee’s father) choose not to recommend his name to President Bush for the position. Anyone want to know why?:
U.S. Attorney John Brownlee’s bid to become a federal judge, considered by some to be on a rapid ascent, has run into turbulence.
Brownlee received lukewarm endorsements this week from two bar associations — and no backing at all from another three — as questions surfaced during the judicial screening process about his prosecutorial discretion and other “credible adverse information.”
In a 6-5 vote, the Virginia State Bar’s judicial nomination committee found Brownlee to be qualified. It was the only close vote as the committee deemed six candidates qualified and another five highly qualified for federal judgeships in Richmond and Alexandria.
“The committee notes that substantial concerns arose from significant and credible adverse information” obtained about Brownlee, a report from the state bar read. But because the bar was unable to fully investigate those concerns before the deadline for recommendations, “the committee is unable to opine as to Mr. Brownlee’s integrity, temperament and impartiality,” the report stated.
The report does not explain what the “adverse information” is, and state bar executive director Thomas Edmonds declined to elaborate.
“The documents speak for themselves and they are carefully worded,” Edmonds said. “Obviously, the vote and the comments reflect some concern.”
Another concern raised by the bar dealt with the extent of Brownlee’s courtroom experience, and discrepancies between what he said about that qualification in a written application to the bar and in a later interview with the nomination committee.
Brownlee, who has overseen federal prosecutions in the Roanoke-based Western District of Virginia since 2001, declined to comment Thursday.
Several cases during his tenure have created considerable controversy, including the fraud prosecution of former National D-Day Memorial Foundation president Richard Burrow, which ended in two hung juries.
Also, the case of pain specialist Dr. Cecil Knox, accused of health fraud and illegal distribution of prescription painkillers, devolved from a sweeping indictment on hundreds of charges to just a few convictions.
The state bar’s comments were not the only bump in the road this week for Brownlee, whose strong political connections have been cited by a University of Richmond law professor and other legal observers who believe he might have an inside track to a judgeship.
The Virginia Women Attorneys Association, another bar group asked to rank judicial candidates, also raised concerns. In a report sent Tuesday to U.S. Sens. John Warner and Jim Webb, the VWAA noted that Brownlee was the only one of 13 candidates to receive unsolicited letters in opposition to his becoming a judge and none in support of his bid.
Also this week, the Virginia Bar Association, the Virginia Defense Attorneys Association and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association released names of candidates they found to be qualified. Brownlee’s name was not on either list.
“Lukewarm” endorsements from two bar associations and refusals from three others to endorse him. He didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being confirm, so he decided to wait, and when he saw an opportunity to run for an elected office — in this case Attorney General — he took it.
And this wasn’t one bar association, it wasn’t two; it was three that refused to endorse him. And another two gave him “lukewarm” endorsements, for crying out loud! And this guy wants to be our next Attorney General!