Judge candidate who once defended early Klan pulls nomination
Brett Talley would have brought an unusual perspective and history to the federal bench.
Now, Talley will just have to share his viewpoint online
Talley, a 36-year-old attorney who has never argued a motion in court or tried a case, saw his name withdrawn from consideration Wednesday for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench in Alabama.
After being declared “unqualified” by the American Bar Association, Talley came under scrutiny for failing to disclose that his wife works for the Trump administration.
Then, it only got worse, as fresh disclosures threw a wrinkle into Talley’s effort to get a judicial robe.
Multiple news outlets, including slate.com and BuzzFeed.com, identified Talley as the author of a post defending the honor of an early Ku Klux Klan leader.
The post on TideFans.com, made in February 2011 by BamainBoston, took issue with another post criticizing Mississippi’s plan to honor Confederate general Nathanial Bedford Forrest on a license plate.
Buzzfeed reported that “BamainBoston” also posted a Washington Post story about Talley from December 2014 with the note “Washington Post Did A Feature on Me.”
Forrest was an early leader of the Klan after the end of the Civil War in 1865. He also was accused of war crimes for allegedly allowing his soldiers to massacre hundreds of black Union troops and white Southern Union prisoners at the Battle of Fort Pillow in Henning, Tennessee.
In the post, BamainBoston wrote that Forrest only joined the Klan after “the perceived depredations of the Union army during reconstruction” and that the organization was “entirely different” than the KKK of the early 19th century.
“When the Klan turned to racial violence, he distanced himself from the organization as he long supported the reconciliation of the races,” BamainBoston wrote.
Um, not quite. The Klan didn’t exist in the early 1800s, but the group experienced a revival in the early 1900s, taking stands in favor of white supremacy and opposing federal efforts to help freed blacks.
Forrest is generally regarded as the first Grand Wizard of the Klan who didn’t disavow the group’s tactics until later in his life.
Those writings weren’t included in Talley’s U.S. Senate questionnaire, which asked nominees to list published materials they have written or edited, including material published only online.
Talley, who also considers himself a ghost hunter, failed to disclose that his wife, Ann Donaldson, is a lawyer in the White House counsel’s office, a point specifically queried under the heading of family members who are “likely to present potential conflicts of interest.”
Talley, a senior official in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee for a seat on the bench in the Middle District of Alabama before the omissions came to light.
The withdrawal came as U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked President Donald Trump to reconsider the nominations of Talley and one other prospective judge.