Oklahoma Christian University alumnus Lawrence VanDyke made national headlines on Wednesday, Oct. 30, after the American Bar Association gave a scathing assessment of his work and character during a confirmation hearing following his nomination as a judge for the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Lawrence VanDyke, a former Oklahoma Christian student who transferred to Montana State after his junior year, was brought to tears after the ABA deemed him “not qualified” as a judge and criticized him in a letter as “arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to-day practice.” In addition, Democratic senators raised concerns about VanDyke’s views and attitudes towards the LGBTQ community.
“Mr. VanDyke would not say affirmatively that he would be fair to any litigant before him, notably members of the LGBTQ community,” the ABA letter said.
It was this claim which caused Lawrence VanDyke to fight back tears during his hearing.
“It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God,” Lawrence VanDyke said in response to his criticisms. “They should all be treated with dignity and respect.”
Brennan VanDyke is Lawrence VanDyke’s son and a senior at Oklahoma Christian. He was present at the Oct. 30 hearing.
“It was surprising,” Brennan VanDyke said, regarding the publicity of the hearing. “Two months ago, my family was super excited when my dad got a Wikipedia page, and then the night after the hearing, we’re on the front of CNN.”
According to Brennan VanDyke, the publicity of the hearing was unexpected and vitriolic, especially on social media and news outlets.
“We all try to stay off of social media because it can get kind of nasty,” Brennan VanDyke said. “There has been a lot of misinformation on both sides.”
The results of the hearing were met with mixed reactions, with some accusing the ABA of running a “smear campaign.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board released an op-ed defending Lawrence VanDyke, and friend and former coworker Brad Lingo characterized him as “humble and hardworking to a fault, as well as patient and kind” in a National Review op-ed.
“The Bible teaches that Christians should live out love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness and self-control,” Lingo said in his op-ed. “That’s how the Lawrence VanDyke that I know treats all people.”
However, some still call for opposition to Lawrence VanDyke’s nomination, with petitions and concerns being raised about his conservative views. Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) characterized the ABA letter in which colleagues assessed Lawrence VanDyke’s capability and character as “fairly damning.”
President Trump nominated Lawrence VanDyke, who went on to Harvard Law School and served as a solicitor general for Montana and Nevada after graduating from Oklahoma Christian, as a judge for the Ninth Circuit in September. The ABA has determined 97% of the 264 Trump administration nominees it has evaluated as “well qualified” or “qualified.”
Brennan VanDyke said Oklahoma Christian students have been supportive of his family and are interested in the hearing.
“There is a lot of support for our family, which is nice,” Brennan VanDyke said. “There are a lot of people who are interested in what is going on, since a lot of people have never watched a judicial hearing and they were exposed to it because of the publicity it got and somebody at their school is in the video.”
Lawrence VanDyke’s nomination has yet to be confirmed, and it is unknown when a decision will be made regarding his confirmation.