Biden Judicial Nominee on the Ropes

Michael Delaney nomination in peril as parents of sexual assault victim speak out

Michael Delaney
Michael Delaney
March 1, 2023

One of President Joe Biden's judicial nominees appears to be in peril as a sexual assault victim and her family are speaking out against his confirmation.

Michael Delaney, who represented the elite St. Paul's School in a civil lawsuit against a teenage sexual assault victim, wasn't scheduled for a Senate vote on Thursday, and the First Circuit nominee faced rare—and extensive—written questions from Democratic senators about his role defending institutions embroiled in sexual misconduct scandals.

The news comes after Delaney faced tough questions from Republican senators in February over his attempt to strip the anonymity of then-minor Chessy Prout, who was sexually assaulted at St. Paul's, the prestigious New Hampshire school, in 2014. Prout's parents called on Biden to pull Delaney's nomination in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon Monday, arguing that Delaney has chosen "to make money off of survivors of sexual assault and defend these institutions."

Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), who called Delaney's February hearing "pretty rough," has yet to schedule a vote on his nomination.

The Judiciary Committee's weekly schedule, which Durbin released Monday, lists two other nominees up for a vote, Jeffrey Cummings and LaShonda Hunt, who had their hearings the same day as Delaney last month.

Another indication of Delaney's troubles is the extensive set of written questions sent to him by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.). It is rare for senators to submit written questions to nominees of their own party, and Feinstein's lengthy list—Delaney's responses ran 42 pages—homed in on his representation of institutions under fire for the sexual misconduct of employees.

Delaney's responses make clear that this has been a core practice area for him: He has, he said, represented 25 "primary or secondary educational institutions ... in responding to instances of misconduct experienced by students" as well as five youth organizations under fire for the sexual abuse of a child.

But it is clear Delaney's nomination will hinge on where Democratic senators fall on his conduct during the Prout case: Their name appears 81 times in the Feinstein questionnaire alone, and he concedes that, while representing the St. Paul's School, he "did request permission to use Ms. Prout’s real name in private settings during pretrial discovery stages of the case, and with jurors at any trial."

Prout’s parents said Democrats who previously supported their daughter’s crusade against rape culture on college campuses have been silent, in what Prout's mother, Susan Prout, called an "egregious backing away from [their] values."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) blasted Sens. Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.) on the Senate floor Wednesday for their continued support of Delaney's nomination. The pair released a letter in January introducing Delaney to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The letter highlighted Delaney's "commitment to justice" and urged the Senate to confirm him. They made no reference to St. Paul, which is located in New Hampshire and where Delaney previously served as attorney general.

"By the way, this brave young lady is outraged that President Biden is trying to reward her legal tormentor with a lifetime appointment, and that our two Democratic colleagues from New Hampshire are backing him," McConnell said.

Both Hassan and Shaheen voted against Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh's nomination in 2018 after he was accused of sexual misconduct by several women. Shaheen described Prout in 2016 as "a remarkable, brave young woman."