Trump's Wildly Unqualified Judicial Nominee Is Also a Ghost-Hunting Horror Author and Really Bad Blogger

Screenshot via YouTube/Liberty Institute, Cthulhu representation added via Pixlr
Screenshot via YouTube/Liberty Institute, Cthulhu representation added via Pixlr

In a fitting symbol of the times in which we live, Brett Talley, a 36-year-old lawyer, has been nominated by the Trump administration to a lifetime position as a federal judge, despite having never tried a case and being unanimously deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. This week, many of us learned for the first time that he’s also a horror novelist, a former ghost-hunter, and a really, really terrible blogger.


Talley’s main qualifications appear to be that he’s a young conservative who will presumably live a long time. He’s seen as indicative of the way that the Trump administration wants to pack the courts with people who think the way they do, and he is—this is fun—the fourth of their judicial nominees to win the rare “not qualified” designation from the ABA. But let’s talk about ghosts, a subject in which Talley is better-versed, given that he’s been pursuing them in the free time he has accrued while not trying cases.

Talley, a former speechwriter for Senator Rob Portman and Mitt Romney, has been a horror novelist for years. He pens what appear to be Lovecraft knockoffs that are probably solidly fine if you’re stranded in a snowbound aiport that’s run out of copies of the Kite Runner. In one of his author bios, he describes himself as working as a lawyer “to put food on the table,” a turn of phrase that does signal a real passion for the law. A 2014 Washington Post profile notes that he once named an Antichrist character after one of his woman coworkers, which we are assured she was totally cool with.

On Monday, the Daily Beast pointed out that Talley is also a former member of the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group, which, hilariously, he had to put down on a disclosure form for judicial nominees. The group’s founder David Higdon, who later co-authored a book with Talley, told the Beast he doesn’t recall any specific cases the two worked on together. Those would be ghost-hunting cases, not “trying in court” cases, because, again, Talley has never done one of those.

Besides all his other exciting extracurriculars, Talley maintains a horror blog, which he’s dubbed a politics-free zone, and which is also remarkable for how flavor-free it manages to be. Here he is, grappling with the subject of H.P. Lovecraft’s racism:

Here are the things I know about H.P. Lovecraft. 1. He was a visionary artist who changed the way we think of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, and his ongoing influence on our literary culture cannot be overstated. 2. He was a xenophobe and a racist.

The question is–which one matters?

To me, the answer is simple.


Stirring. Here he is on an older controversy, a bunch of vile online dorks who got mad that a Hunger Games character was black:

Racism has become like Nazism—the word is so charged, it’s so filled with vitriol, and it’s thrown around so often, that it no longer functions as a good descriptor for most situations. This is one of them. The mind does funny things. I don’t think that makes everyone who forgot that Rue was black a racist.

My two cents, now take it to the comments.

A preview, we hope, of the kind of keen legal reasoning Talley will take to the job that he will hold for the rest of his goddamn life.

Despite his many bona fides, criticism of Talley from Democrats is continuing to build, for all kinds of silly reasons like “ethics” and “qualifications” and “astonishing conflicts of interest.” Though Talley found time to list all of his horror-and-ghost related accomplishments on that disclosure form, he failed to mention his wife, a White House lawyer named Ann Donaldson. Talley somehow didn’t mention his spouse despite a question that specifically asked him to identify “family members or other persons ... that are likely to present potential conflicts of interest.”

Nonetheless, Talley’s nomination proceeded through the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote, and it seems probable that the full Senate will narrowly vote to confirm him soon. Spooky.


Talley has made his Twitter private, but we can all still enjoy his YouTube channel and apparently homemade book trailers.

Anna Merlan was a Senior Reporter at G/O Media until September 2019. She's the author of Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power.



What’s with the hair in this administration.