At least five of the 15 members American Bar Association qualifications review panel who evaluated the legal background of Mississppi's Michael Wallace, a former legal aide to Sen. Trent Lott, were charter members of the American Constitution Society, the liberal knock-off of the Federalist Society.
The panel has garnered attention in the past 36 hours after rating Wallace, nominated to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, as "unqualified."
"This is a guy who is extremely bright and talented as a legal mind," says a former classmate of Wallace's at the University of Virginia Law School. "He clerked for a Supreme Court justice [Rehnquist]. He's served our nation in positions of responsibility and performed well [Wallace was appointed to head the Legal Services Corp. by President Reagan]. This is not a case of the President nominating some ambulance chaser. This is a highly qualified individual."
The only blotch on his record -- if you're a Democrat -- is his service to Senator Lott as special counsel during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
According to a Republican member of the ABA, the Wallace review is now the big buzz in ABA circles. "You talk to a lot of the Dems, and they say that this was coming, particularly after the Alito and Roberts nominations. Wallace is to them a test case. Can their reviews -- which this White House has never taken seriously -- influence Senate Democrats to fight? This is purely a power play by liberal Dems in the ABA trying to empower [Sen. Patrick] Leahy."
The question now: Will the ABA's move empower and energize Republicans both within the "Gang of 14" as well as on the campaign trail.