Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) is a national treasure with an incisive wit and a dry sense of humor. He has displayed these talents throughout his time in the Senate, whether by stumping unqualified Biden nominees or in interviews with reporters.
Kennedy’s wit was on display again Wednesday when he questioned Robin M. Meriweather before the Senate Judiciary Committee, who is currently a federal magistrate judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Joe Biden nominated her to be a judge on the Court of Federal Claims earlier this month.
Kennedy exposed Meriweather’s utter lack of qualifications during his line of inquiry. He began by forcing her to admit she had never argued a single case before the Court of Federal Claims after multiple tries.
Then things got even worse for Meriweather. She bombed two basic questions a law student could answer. The first was the grounds for granting a new trial, and the second was defining a contract of cohesion. After much prodding from Kennedy, she could only name one of at least six grounds for granting a new trial and was left completely bamboozled by the second question.
This whole six-minute interrogation was a complete mismatch.
Kennedy: How many motions have you argued in the Court of Federal Claims?
Meriweather: I have argued hundreds of motions involving complex civil claims in numerous courts. The Court of Federal Claims is not one of those courts.
Kennedy: Okay, so the answer is zero?
Meriweather: That is correct, senator.
Kennedy: Okay, how many cases have you tried in the Court of Federal Claims?
Meriweather: I have tried a civil case in the District Court for the District of Columbia; most of my cases have been resolved on motions, and none of those cases have been in the court of federal claims, although they involve similarly complex matters under civil laws,” Meriweather explained.
Kennedy: So the answer is zero?
Meriweather: That is correct, Senator.
Kennedy: Tell me the grounds for granting a new trial in the Court of Federal Claims.
Meriweather: All of the trials in the Court of Federal Claims are bench trials and the Court of Federal Claims, although it is not bound by the federal rules of civil procedure, its rules mirror those rules when applicable. So it’s my understanding that the same rules that would apply in the district court are also applied in that context, but if I were presented with a motion for a new trial, should I be confirmed as a judge on the Court of Federal Claims I would, of course, consult the rules of court, of the Court of Federal Claims.
Kennedy: So what are the grounds for granting a new trial?
Meriweather: My understanding is that in a new trial, you would have to comply with the applicable rules.
Kennedy: I know that, but what are they? What are the grounds? You said that the rules are identical to the Court of Federal Claims and Federal District Court. I’m not sure that’s accurate, but just tell me, what are the grounds for granting a new trial in the Court of Federal Claims?
Meriweather: Senator, that is not an issue I have had occasion to consider before, despite my extensive civil experience and my familiarity not only with the federal rules of civil procedure but I’ve also reviewed the rules of the Court of Federal Claims. But if I were presented with that question, should I be confirmed, I would again consult the rules and follow the precedent.
Kennedy: Alright, let me be sure, judge, I understand your testimony. Can you tell me one single ground for granting a new trial in either a federal district court of the Court of Federal Claims as we sit here today?” Kennedy asked again.
Merriweather: Yes, if you misapplied, if there were gross misapplication of the law, certainly a litigant would argue for a new trial…”
Kennedy: Anything else? There are like six or seven of them. Can you tell me any others?
Merriweather: Trials are so infrequent in the civil context and I have, although I have presided over bench trials and a jury trial, I have not been presented with a motion to have a new trial so I’ve not..
Kennedy: Okay, okay, what’s a contract of adhesion?
Merriweather: Senator, I’m familiar with contract law, the concept of contracts of adhesion..
Kennedy: Yeah, you’re gonna see a lot of that; that’s what the Federal Court of Federal Claims does. What’s a contract of adhesion?
Merriweather: Senator, the court of federal claims does handle a lot of procurement cases, those typically turn on interpretations…
Kennedy: Yes, ma’am, but I’m going to run out of time. What’s a contract of adhesion? If you don’t know, just tell me.
Merriweather: Senator, despite my extensive civil experience including dozens of cases that include contract cases, I have not dealt with the question of what a contract of adhesion is but should it be presented to me I would…
Kennedy: Sure, you’ll look it up.
According to Cornell Law School, a contract of adhesion exists “if the parties are of such disproportionate bargaining power that the party of weaker bargaining strength could not have negotiated for variations in the terms of the adhesion contract.” Cornell Law goes on to note these contracts are generally used for matters involving insurance, leases, deeds, mortgages, automobile purchases, and other forms of consumer credit.