One of President Biden’s judicial nominees faced brutal questioning Wednesday during a Senate confirmation hearing for the role he played in defending a New Hampshire prep school in a famous student rape case from 2014 — a role that could scuttle his nomination.
In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, GOP senators grilled Michael Arthur Delaney, who is nominated to serve on a First Circuit court, for his role as defense attorney for the elite St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, during the case against Owen Lambrie. When he was 18, Lambrie was accused of raping a 15-year-old student, Chessy Prout.
The contention in the hearing stemmed from a motion that Delaney filed during the 2014 court proceedings that could have required Prout, who was a minor at the time, to have her anonymity lifted.
‘You filed a motion that sought to strip her anonymity,’ Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., charged in the hearing.
‘You told the court that it should happen because you didn’t like the time at which her counsel filed their complaint because it put your school at an inconvenience. They had to answer reporter questions, you said. Frankly, that seems to me like a small burden to bear after what Chessy went through,’ he said.
‘I’m astounded you’ve been nominated. I can’t believe we’re sitting here having this conversation today,’ Hawley added. ‘People who put sexual assault victims through this kind of torture shouldn’t sit on the bench.’
Delaney defended his position by saying the motion he filed was in the context of a back-and-forth between lawyers about whether Prout could stay anonymous and whether Prout’s legal team would agree to not discuss the case in the press. He said it was not ‘in any way intended to intimidate any of the parties to the case.’ The motion was ultimately withdrawn, and Prout chose to come forward publicly on her own.
But Republicans rejected that explanation.
‘You made a decision here… to try to strip a young girl of her anonymity. And you effectively succeeded, because you bullied her into it,’ Hawley claimed. ‘So she, unwilling to be intimidated by you, went forward and revealed her own name.’
Prout submitted a letter to committee opposing Delaney’s nomination, from which Hawley read excerpts aloud.
‘I remember so clearly reading Michael Delaney’s motion from front to back when I came home from my new high school one day, processing what it meant,’ Hawley read from the letter. ‘And then defiantly stating to my parents that after everything I’ve been dragged through from anonymous death and rape threats on the internet, to the betrayal of and backlash of my closest friends. I wasn’t gonna let Michael Delaney’s dirty tactics bully me – then 16 years old – into shame and silence.’
‘When survivors of sexual assault, harassment and abuse come forward to seek some semblance of justice, there is an army of attorneys with a tried and true playbook of tactics to discredit, pressure and manipulate survivors and victims into silence,’ Hawley read from the letter.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas., noted that Prout’s parents were in the audience at the hearing.
‘You and your daughter have been victimized now three times,’ Cruz said. ‘First on that horrific night. Secondly, when Mr. Delaney representing the school went into court, and tried to strip your daughter’s anonymity, tried to out her against her wishes. And third, when the Biden administration chose to reward him by nominating him to the court of appeals.’
Cruz added that ‘there is a reason that virtually every Democrat skipped this hearing. They’re embarrassed about this nomination.’ At least seven committee Democrats were not present at the hearing.
Cruz read another portion of Prout’s letter, which said, ‘If Michael Delaney is confirmed, if an attorney who has brazenly intimidated a minor victim of sexual assault is given the distinct privilege to serve as a judge for the United States Court of Appeals, you are telling victims and survivors that you not only approve of victim intimidation tactics, you reward their enactors with one of the highest legal appointments in the state of Massachusetts.’
Delaney said that he hopes the committee will ‘consider the totality’ of his 30-year career for his nomination.
‘I have spent nearly 30 years in my legal career, half of that in public service,’ he said.
‘In all that I did, I would ask this committee to consider the totality of my record over nearly 30 years as it reviews my qualifications,’ Delaney added.