Clip of judicial nominee who can't define motion in limine goes viral

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A clip of a federal judicial nominee struggling to define legal terms and concepts, such as motion in limine and the Daubert standard, has received more than 5.5 million views.

The nominee, Matthew Spencer Petersen, is a former Wiley Rein associate and a current member of the Federal Election Commission. He received a “qualified” rating from the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.

Petersen acknowledged in Wednesday’s hearing that he hasn’t tried a case to verdict or argued a motion, although he has participated in a handful of depositions. He is nominated to the federal court in Washington, D.C. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., shared the clip on Twitter.

The clip shows Sen. John Neely Kennedy, R-La., asking Petersen about his experience and familiarity with legal concepts. The Washington Post, in stories here and here, and the National Law Journal (sub. req.) have coverage.

Kennedy asked Petersen to tell him what the Daubert standard is. “I don’t have that readily at my disposal,” Petersen said. “But I would be happy to take a closer look at that.”

Do you know what a motion in limine is, Kennedy asked. At first Petersen said yes, he knew what it was. “My background is not in litigation,” Petersen said. “I haven’t had to do a deep dive.”

When pressed for the meaning, Petersen replied, “I would probably not be able to give you a good definition right here at the table.”

The Daubert standard governs the admission of expert evidence. A motion in limine is used to request the exclusion of evidence at trial.

Petersen graduated from the University of Virginia law school, was an associate for three years in campaign finance law at Wiley Rein, and worked as counsel to the Republican National Committee and two congressional panels.

Petersen said he has experience overseeing litigation as a member of the Federal Election Commission.

Updated at 1:05 p.m. and 4:50 p.m. with number of views.

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