Judge Ana de Alba, who has been on the US District Court for the Eastern District of California since June 2022, was recently nominated by President Joe Biden to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. Her backers at Civilrights.org insist she’s “highly qualified” for the position, but her critics point to her shaky understanding of the law and checkered past as proof she’s unqualified. During her confirmation hearing on May 17, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) backed the judge into a box by asking de Alba to identify a fundamental legal provision.
🚨WATCH:@SenJohnKennedy asked Judge Ana de Alba, a sitting district judge nominated by President Biden to the Ninth Circuit, what the Dormant Commerce Clause is.— JCN (@judicialnetwork) May 17, 2023
Judge de Alba was unable to answer a question any first year law student would know. pic.twitter.com/b5Myj2KZrh
Kennedy stated that the provision was an area of law that de Alba would need to be familiar with if she were to serve on the Court of Appeals before asking his question. Next, he pressed de Alba for an explanation of the Dormant Commerce Clause, which was met with a stuttering repetition of the section’s title and an insistence that it was Article I of the Constitution. The Louisiana senator interjected with a hint: “There was a big Supreme Court case that just came out of your state.”
After explaining her lack of experience with the Dormant Commerce Clause, De Alba expressed regret and pledged to learn more about it if she were to be approved by Congress. Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the United specifies Constitution is known as the Dormant Commerce Clause, and it specifies that no state may impose its own trading practices on any other state “even in the absence of congressional legislation.”
The recent Supreme Court ruling in de Alba’s state, to which Kennedy implies, reportedly relied on interpretations of the clause to decide whether or not Proposition 12 in California was enforceable. Out-of-state farmers complained that the law made it too expensive to rear calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens in ethical areas in California. After much debate, the courts concluded that California did, in fact, have the authority to limit such imports to firms that met the state’s ethical requirements.