Kathryn Kimball Mizelle. (Courtesy photo via Committee Video)

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Kathryn “Kat” Mizelle to a seat on the U.S. Court for the Middle District of Florida, making her the youngest judge tapped by President Donald Trump to a lifetime appointment despite questions about her limited trial experience.

Mizelle, a Jones Day associate, was confirmed to the seat on a 49-41 vote. She was 33 when she faced scrutiny over her experience during a nomination hearing in September, held shortly after a majority of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary said she was “not qualified” for the seat due to a lack of trial experience.

“Ms. Mizelle has a very keen intellect, a strong work ethic and an impressive resume. She presents as a delightful person and she has many friends who support her nomination. Her integrity and demeanor are not in question,” the committee said in a letter. “These attributes however simply do not compensate for the short time she has actually practiced law and her lack of meaningful trial experience.”

Mizelle defended her credentials during the hearing, pointing to her time as a federal prosecutor as providing her with opportunities to be in the courtroom. Republican senators on the committee also sought to shield her from criticism, highlighting her clerkships for Justice Clarence Thomas and Judge Gregory Katsas on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

“It is unusual that I see an individual who has been out of law school for this period of time who has accumulated this much experience,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said at the time.

But critics argued those clerkships could not compensate for trial experience. They point to Mizelle including on her Senate questionnaire a case she worked on as a legal intern as among the most important cases she’s been involved in to back up their claims.

Trump is known for appointing younger federal judges, who would be able to sit on courts for several decades. The Senate last year confirmed Allison Jones Rushing to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit; she was 36 at the time of her nomination.

One month later, senators approved Roy Altman—who was 36 at the time—for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The Senate earlier this year also confirmed 38-year-old Justin Walker to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Mizelle joined Jones Day after her U.S. Supreme Court clerkship. She reported an income of $83,333 for the part of 2019 she spent at the firm, as well as a $400,000 bonus, on a financial disclosure form. The form lists her 2020 salary from Jones Day at $333,333.

Tuesday’s vote was one of several judicial confirmations conducted during the Senate’s lame duck session, shortly after the 2020 election was called for President-elect Joe Biden. It’s unclear which party will control the Senate in the next session of Congress due to a pair of run-off elections in Georgia. 

Mizelle is married to Chad Mizelle, the acting general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security. In that role, he would have been involved in the legal rationale for the deployment of federal law enforcement at protests this summer over police violence against Black Americans in cities like Portland.

In a letter to the committee, Kathryn Mizelle said she had been asked about any potential conflicts that could stem from her husband’s roles in the Trump administration. She said that she would “recuse in accordance” with the federal law on recusals and the judicial code of conduct, and “would consult any judicial decisions applying those particular rules to similar cases or circumstances for matters related to my husband’s position.”

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