Biden’s nominee for a federal judgeship, Darrin Gayles, appears to have been stumped by some basic legal terms during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. When asked by Republican Senator Ted Cruz about the legal meaning of the terms “actual malice” and “gross negligence,” Gayles responded, “I’m not sure.”
Gayles was asked the questions as part of a wider line of inquiry from Republican lawmakers on the committee about his views and experience on libel cases, a subject they argued was relevant for a potential lifetime appointment to the federal bench.
Gayles, who was nominated by President Biden to the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida, is a former circuit judge in Miami-Dade County. He has been widely praised by lawyers, judges, and legal groups from both political parties.
In his exchange with Cruz, Gayles said he was aware of the definitions of gross negligence and actual malice as used in libel law, but added that those terms “would depend on the context.” He added that he had “no problem” researching the definitions of those legal terms as needed.
During the hearing, Gayles said he had broad experience studying and interpreting both state and federal law and had managed complex civil litigation matters on the trial and appellate levels. At one point, he offered to provide the committee with an “encyclopedic catalogue” of his published opinions, with which he said they could inspect his work and “issues such as libel and defamation.”
Ultimately, the hearing ended without any decisions on Gayles’ nomination. The committee did not take a vote on the nomination, and it is currently pending further action.