Biden judicial nominee appears stumped by basic legal terms: ‘I’m not sure’

A nominee for a district judgeship in Oklahoma struggled during her nomination hearing on Wednesday to define basic terms for orders issued regularly by judges.

Sara E. Hill, who is nominated by President Biden to be the district judge for the Northern District of Oklahoma, was grilled by Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., on the Senate Judiciary Committee about basic legal and Constitutional terms and definitions – a practice that’s become usual for him in recent months after several nominees have struggled to pass his tests.

When Kennedy asked Hill the difference between a “stay” order and an “injunction” order – two orders frequently issued by federal courts – Hill stumbled through her answers. 

“A stay order would prohibit, um, sorry. An injunction would restrain the parties from taking action. A stay order … I’m not sure I can, actually can, can give you that,” she said.

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An injunction is an order from the court that prohibits a party in a case from performing or ordering a specified act as the case continues, either temporarily or permanently, sometimes referred to as a temporary restraining order.

A stay order is issued to stop the legal proceedings of a case in court.

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Carrie Severino, constitutional lawyer and president of the Judicial Crisis Network, commented on X (formerly Twitter) about the exchange by saying, “How can an individual who wants to be a federal judge possibly not know this?”

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“Stays and injunctions come before district judges all of the time. This is not a trick question,” she added.

Severino noted that at the end of Kennedy’s probe, committee Chair Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., “even congratulated Hill afterward for ‘passing the Kennedy bar exam’ – talk about grading on a curve!”

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