Thu 8/17 – Fri 8/18 – The ground beneath our feet.

There are so many pressing issues for the Resistance to concentrate on…

Where to start?… immigration limits, discrimination against Muslim Americans and their families, the environment including climate change, clean air and water, toxic chemicals, the protection of drilling/mining/logging interests, the removal of science-based information, DACA & Dreamers, the border wall, status of our economic refugees, the border wall with its environmental and human costs, the preservation of our national monuments and wildlife sanctuaries, the protection of the Endangered Species Act, the eminent defunding and breakup of our school system, predatory loans against students, and banking practices against consumers, the suppression of voting rights and threats of “investigation” for illegal voting, civil rights for all minorities, women’s rights to for bodily autonomy and equal pay, LGBTQ rights for equal access, corporate and presidential overreach, prisoner and arrestee rights, threats to the privacy of “resisters”, destruction of our health insurance system along with the rest of social safety net including Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security…more than we can list…

Our president has unleashed his pack of political scavengers and corporate predators  upon us. They will take all they can and pick us clean, affecting almost every aspect of our lives.

Can anyone stop him?

Yes. The courts.  They already have. And Trump has clearly zeroed in on the judicial system as a potential enemy.

So, while we follow our supposedly unhinged leader down his custom-crafted rabbit hole…

…becoming mired in his stage-managed distractions – the inaugural crowd size comparisons, unproven and impossible voter fraud, wire-tapping accusations, FAKE news claims, health care funding threats and now his vile right-wing equivocations…

Squirrel

….he is steadily, quietly, and effectively destroying one of our last lines of defense against him.

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By filling every empty judicial seat with toadies and hard-right believers, not only will they rubber-stamp his every action, his kleptocracy will use the courts to further consolidate its power. They’re already working on suppressing voters, removing hard-won civil liberties, and empowering religious extremists to discriminate against other Americans. Just as the court system has the power to protect us, it also has the potential, in the hands of Trump’s supporters, to change America beyond recognition.

All those other issues we started out at the top with…

Those are the walls and roof, floors and ceilings, doors and windows, together forming the structure that we live inside. But the courts…

The courts are our foundation. Literally the earth beneath our feet. He is pulling it away with a bulldozer. 

He’s already had a huge win. By pushing the Senate to break their own rules, he  and dark money bought Gorsuch a seat on the Supreme Court.

Embed from Getty Images
Said Dianne Feinstein In my view, this is not a routine nomination. So I want to begin with just some brief comments about what has made this different for me. The first, of course, is what happened last year, which is unprecedented.

As I noted in our last meeting, throughout our nation’s history, a total of 19 Supreme Court justices have been nominated and confirmed in a presidential election year, and three of these have been nominated and confirmed after the presidential election took place.

So there was simply no reason that the nomination of Judge Garland could not proceed, other than to deny the then-president of the United States, President Barack Obama, the ability to fill the seat. And that’s what has taken place.

Secondly, press reports indicate that $7 million of dark money was spent to defeat Judge Garland’s nomination. This too was unprecedented. However, with the nomination of Judge Gorsuch the spending of dark money has only grown.

Weeks ago, press began reporting that the Koch brothers—through Concerned Veterans for America—and other conservative donors through the Judicial Crisis Network planned to spend at least $10 million on a political campaign to support Judge Gorsuch’s nomination.

Since then, the National Rifle Association has launch a $1 million ad buy, and just last Friday, the Judicial Crisis Network announced another $1 million, targeted to specific senators in Missouri, Montana, Indiana and Colorado.

So this nomination is not the usual nomination. It comes in a different way, and it has proceeded in a way of excessive spending of dark money that in the time I have been on this committee I have never seen before.

So this is deeply troubling. And I don’t believe it’s the way a serious process of evaluating a Supreme Court nominee should be conducted.

I want to be clear though—although my vote will not be based on these factors—I strongly believe that the expenditure of millions of dollars of unknown dollars should not be permitted in the nomination of a Supreme Court justice.”

This video includes the above and more… Feinstein is great here.

The ramifications of this are already starting.

Before we get started…

We know you now have a full cup of coffee and are ready to watch this weird and terrifying pageant of judicial horrors,  but let’s get some basic FAQ’s out of the way first.

How long do they get to stay in office?

Federal judges, (and Supreme Court “justices”) may hold their position for the rest of their lives, but many resign or retire earlier. They may also be removed by impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate. Throughout history, fourteen federal judges have been impeached due to alleged wrongdoing.

Magistrate judges, also classified as federal judges, are selected by district judges and serve a specified term.

District court judges are responsible for managing the court and supervising the court’s employees. They are able to continue to serve so long as they maintain “good behavior,” and they can be impeached and removed by Congress.

Circuit court judges are appointed for life by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Are there outside arbiters who help establish minimum qualifications?

Not anymore. The GOP dismissed the ABA. The American Bar Association used to evaluate candidates for “…integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament. Ideology and politics were out of bounds.”

What is “blue-slipping” and why is the GOP trying to kill it?

Not returning a “Blue-slip” indicates that a senator is blocking a nominee who would have jurisdiction over his/her state. The GOP is trying to fast-track radical-right nominees by breaking decades of rules and standards by changing these rules. The revision would prevent legislators from blocking nominees to circuit courts that have jurisdiction over several states. This would help the GOP win confirmations more easily.

What other actions are the GOP taking to hurry this process along?

The Judiciary Committee wants to exclude writings, public statements, and records of who the nominees have represented from consideration during their hearings. Basically the crazy bits that the public really has a right to know about.

OK, here we go…

So, remember what we were just talking about? How distractions are keeping our attention away from the hard-right craziness that the GOP is installing in our courts? Did you notice that our newest heros from the Health Care wars, Senators McCain, Murkowski and Collins all voted to approve this guy – John K. Bush? We are now paying his salary.

Squirrel indeed.

John K. Bush – Confirmed. Yeah. Really.

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(5Calls) John K. Bush has zero experience as a judge. He is a commercial litigator and the president of a chapter of The Federalist Society, a group of conservatives and libertarians that promotes “originalism” – the view that the words of the Constitution should be interpreted as intended or understood by the authors. This interpretation results in deeply conservative interpretations of a broad range of issues. For example, from this perspective, Bush criticizes a Supreme Court ruling (NYT vs Sullivan) that protects freedom of the press from libel accusations. This willingness to suppress and punish freedom of the press is especially alarming in the context of Trump’s statement last year: “I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”

In addition to signaling a willingness to shield Trump from media scrutiny, Bush has made a number of deeply concerning statements and actions. He opposes public financing of political campaigns, the Affordable Care Act, and said abortion was one of the “two greatest tragedies in our country” (slavery being the other). He also wrote after the 2016 Republican National Convention that “the Democrats are trying to win with the same game plan as in 2008, only substitute woman for Black”. LGBT groups opposed to his confirmation cite not only homophobic epithets and other anti-LGBT and misogynistic remarks made by him in his public speeches and writings, but also records that clearly illustrate his “views on civil rights issues are fundamentally at odds with the notion that LGBT people are entitled to equality, liberty, justice and dignity under the law.” Slate refers to him and Damien Schiff as  “Polemicists in Robes.”

Awesome!

And here is his evil twin, already in the chute for a final Senate vote, also hoping to belly up to a taxpayer-supported hate-filled smorgasbord of damage that he can inflict on those he dislikes. Which is pretty much everybody. We wonder about his childhood.

Damien Schiff – Nominated for US Court of Federal Claims

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(afj.org)”Damien Schiff—who has called Justice Anthony Kennedy a “judicial prostitute” —has been nominated by President Trump to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (“CFC”). As this report demonstrates, rarely has there been a nominee who is so sorely unfit to serve as a judge.

Besides his disqualifying temperament, Schiff himself has emphasized that he would not be a neutral jurist. He sees the role of the judge not to apply facts to law, but to advance an agenda. He has called for a “reinvigorated constitutional jurisprudence, emanating from the judiciary” which “could well be the catalyst to real reform, as opposed to that reform coming from other branches.” He has written that the “the President is hampered by the modern administrative state” and “Congress, as a collective body of 535 persons, cannot act effectively.” But, “the Supreme Court, with just five votes, can overturn precedents upon which many of the unconstitutional excrescences of the New Deal and Great Society eras depend.”Schiff is a member of The Federalist Society and is a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a group whose goal, PLF’s Vice President of Litigation admitted, is to “get rid of the regulatory state established by F.D.R.’s New Deal.” PLF brings sweeping challenges to fundamental protections for the environment, workers, and victims of discrimination, and Schiff’s practice has been devoted to weakening environmental laws and other legal protections.

Indeed, as this report demonstrates, Schiff holds extremist views regarding property rights and the ability of government to protect the health and safety of the American people. He has dedicated his career to undermining protections for clean air, clean water, and wildlife. He believes that federal land should be sold, including Yosemite National Park to Walt Disney. And, he believes persons who don’t use public schools should not have to pay for educating our children, noting “[w]hy should folks have to pay for somebody else’s education, or for facilities that they themselves do not use?” He believes corporations should have even more unchecked power. For example, he believes the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is unconstitutional.

…While extolling the rights of corporations and property owners, Schiff has minimized other essential constitutional protections. For example, he has vigorously opposed civil rights for LGBTQ Americans, including opposing Lawrence v. Texas, marriage equality, and even efforts to prevent LGBTQ children from being bullied at school. And, his record on issues involving persons of color and women are just as troubling. He has written that court decisions that upheld racial equity programs were comparable to Dred Scott, Plessy, and Korematsu. His assertion that policies designed to ensure equal opportunities for minorities and women are comparable to court decisions upholding slavery, Jim Crow, and the internment of Japanese Americans is self-evidently absurd and offensive, as is his belief that the experience of Americans dealing with the Environmental Protection Agency is akin to slavery.

He also has opposed efforts to ensure equal opportunity for women under Title IX, believing its application to high school athletics is unconstitutional. And he is a strong opponent of the right of a woman to decide whether to have an abortion.The fact of the matter is, on issue after issue, Damien Schiff wants to use his prospective position as a judge to roll back essential protections and prevent local officials, states, and the federal government, including Congress, from addressing issues of public policy and the critical needs of the American people. He is temperamentally unfit to serve as a judge, and his views are dangerous—regularly rejected by even the most conservative federal judges. He simply should not serve as a federal judge.”

Download afj.org background report: https://www.afj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/AFJ-Schiff-Report.pdf

Download afj.org fact sheet: https://www.afj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Schiff-Fact-Sheet.pdf

The parade of horrors continues… But wait! She looks like such a nice person!

Amy Coney Barrett – Nominee for US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Her first official action would be to lie…while taking her oath of office.

 “I, ___ ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as ___ under the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

“Stunningly, Barrett has asserted that judges should not follow the law or the Constitution when it conflicts with their personal religious beliefs. In fact, Barrett has said that judges should be free to put their personal views ahead of their judicial oath to faithfully follow the law. This position is antithetical to the fair and impartial functioning of the federal judiciary. Moreover, Barrett has said that judges should not be bound by stare decisis, the doctrine that requires them to follow well-settled law. Barrett’s extreme view on stare decisis threatens the very foundation of our common law tradition.

Further, it would be hard to overstate the degree to which Barrett’s academic work has been tailored to dismantle Roe v. Wade. Indeed, her belief that a judge can refuse to neutrally apply well-settled law seems to be born of her staunch opposition to a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion.

Barrett promotes an extreme form of textualism and originalism in interpreting the Constitution and laws. Her view could lead her to reject as unconstitutional cases that have advanced basic civil rights for people of color, women, and LGBTQ Americans.

Barrett has criticized the Miranda decision requiring that persons who are arrested must be informed of their rights, including their right to an attorney. She also criticized the United States Sentencing Commission’s amendment to sentencing guidelines aimed at correcting the sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine, ignoring the disproportionate harm that had been done to communities of color.

Moreover, Barrett has very limited litigation experience. Based on her disclosures to the Senate Judiciary Committee, she has never been first chair for a trial and has never argued an appeal. Barrett has never even served as counsel of record in an appellate case.  In addition, her limited legal practice has been highly partisan. For example, she served as an attorney for George W. Bush during Bush v. Gore.”
(https://www.afj.org/our-work/nominees/amy-coney-barrett)

Download background report: https://www.afj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Barrett-Report.pdf

Download fact sheet: https://www.afj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Barrett-Fact-Sheet.pdf

Gorsuch, a fellow Coloradan, favors this one. Is it something in the water?

Allison Eid  – Nominee for the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

eid-1
“Eid’s record reveals a jurist who, to an extraordinary degree, adheres to a rigid, ultraconservative partisan ideology. Both in academia and on the Colorado Supreme Court, she sided with Republicans in trying to prevent the creation of more competitive congressional districts and in working to undermine campaign finance laws. Her hostility to public education is notable; she has supported Republican efforts allowing public dollars to finance religious schools, attacks on increases in funding for public schools, and efforts to undermine collective bargaining rights of teachers. She would have made it more difficult for unions to engage in the democratic process, and she supported corporations’ long-term efforts to make it more difficult for consumers to hold businesses accountable. She would have allowed a private company to use eminent domain to build a petroleum pipeline. And, like her former boss, Justice Clarence Thomas, Eid repeatedly turns a blind eye to police misconduct, narrowing critical constitutional protections for those accused of committing crimes. Each of these causes has been championed by the far right….

Moreover, Eid’s academic writings demonstrate that she is bent on undermining the ability of the federal government to protect the American people. She celebrated cases striking down the ban on guns in school zones and invalidating parts of the Violence Against Women Act. She has advocated for expanding the reach of those cases, promoting a limited reading of the Commerce Clause that has not been adopted since the New Deal. This position would wreak untold harm on everyday Americans who rely on the federal government for critical civil rights, employment, and environmental protections.

Eid’s record also reveals that while she is ostensibly a principled jurist, she in fact is a results-oriented judge who is quick to discard stated principles when it serves corporate interests.” (https://www.afj.org/our-work/nominees/allison-eid)

There’s a lot of talk about how we need more women in public life. Phyllis Schlafly was a woman. We probably should be more specific…

Joan Larsen – Nominee for US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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“Denying the president a constitutional voice is the real threat to our system of separated powers. . . . If circumstances arose in which the law would prevent him from protecting the nation, he would choose the nation over the statute.”

“Larsen’s record raises several serious questions about her fitness for the federal bench, most notably in the areas of executive power and the interests of corporations. In addition, her inclusion on the original list of potential Supreme Court candidates provided to President Trump by the Federalist Society suggests that she adheres to the ultraconservative orthodoxy of the Society and passed the President’s “litmus test” for judicial nominees—which would include opposition to abortion rights. Significantly, Larsen has written about presidential power in ways that suggest she would not act as an independent check on the Executive Branch, an issue of particular import at a time when the President publicly lambasts judges and demonstrates repeated disdain for the rule of law.

For example, she has praised the use of extreme presidential signing statements and the President’s ability to ignore acts of Congress. Referencing George W. Bush’s signing statement limiting the application of the McCain Amendment outlawing the use of torture against persons in the custody of the United States, Larsen claimed: “Denying the president a constitutional voice is the real threat to our system of separated powers… If circumstances arose in which the law would prevent him from protecting the nation, he would choose the nation over the statute.” Noted constitutional scholar Peter Shane has written that Larsen’s “enthusiasm for unchecked executive power should be profoundly worrying,” and added “we cannot afford judges who would grant President Trump extreme leeway to decide what statutes he may ignore.”

Larsen also authored a memo, while working in the Office of Legal Counsel (“OLC”) under President George W. Bush, regarding the habeas corpus rights of detained prisoners. The contents of the memorandum have been withheld. Larsen’s nomination should not proceed until her work on this critical issue, touching upon issues of executive power, can be properly evaluated.

Justice Larsen is an advocate for “originalism,” which could call into question her commitment on the bench to civil rights for African Americans, women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights. She is a very vocal admirer of her former boss, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who consistently ruled against voting rights, the right to choose, and granting even the most basic protections to LGBTQ individuals.” (https://www.afj.org/our-work/nominees/joan-larsen)

Download background report: https://www.afj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/AFJ-Larsen-Report.pdf

You’ll be needing that second cup of coffee right about now…

Ralph Erickson – Nominee for US Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit

Erickson
“Erickson’s record raises concerns. He has issued notable anti-LGBTQ and anti-environment rulings, granting one injunction to halt a Department of Health and Human Services rule that would have protected transgender individuals from discrimination by health providers, and another to halt the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Rule.

Erickson has been heavily involved in partisan politics for many years. He ran for the North Dakota State House of Representatives as a Republican and worked actively in the party for almost two decades. He also made numerous donations to Republican candidates, and his wife continued to give to the GOP while Erickson sat on the state court bench. He faces a high bar in demonstrating that he would be capable of being a fair and neutral arbiter on the bench, rather than a partisan politician unable to separate his politics from his public service.

Finally, as noted, Erickson’s nomination was only possible because the Senate never acted on Puhl’s nomination, despite the bipartisan support she received. Same situation as Gorsuch and Garland.” (https://www.afj.org/our-work/nominees/ralph-erickson)

Download background report: https://www.afj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/AFJ-Erickson-Report.pdf

One more…

Stephen Schwartz – Nominee for US Court of Federal Claims

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“Schwartz’s legal career has been short. He is only thirty-four years old. But that brief career can be defined as extremely ideological. In this context it is worth noting the past comments of Republicans who opposed the nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which is not even a judicial position. Regarding Adegbile, Senator Chuck Grassley opined that “the President’s nominee can’t be so committed to political causes, and so devoted to political ideology, that it clouds his or her judgment.” At the same time, Senator Mitch McConnell insisted that Mr. Adegbile should not be confirmed because of his work as a lawyer, which he characterized as “marked by ideologically-driven positions.” These remarks were based largely on a single case in which the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed briefs seeking to protect the constitutional rights of a death-row inmate.

By contrast, Schwartz’s “ideologically-driven positions” are numerous and include defending discriminatory voter laws, severe restrictions on a women’s access to abortion, and discriminatory policies against transgender students. By Senator McConnell’s and Senator Grassley’s own standards, Schwartz is simply unfit for the federal bench.” (https://www.afj.org/our-work/nominees/stephen-schwartz)

Download background report: https://www.afj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/AFJ-Schwartz-Report.pdf

Haha, we lied. One more.

David Stras – Nominee for US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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Justice David Stras of the Minnesota Supreme Court was nominated by President Donald Trump to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Alliance for Justice is investigating Justice Stras’s record and has identifed several red flags.

Like other Trump nominees, Stras fits the mold of an ultra-right-wing conservative who will be a good friend to big corporations, the wealthy and the powerful, at the expense of everyday Americans.

Download background report: https://www.afj.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Stras-Early-Look.pdf

Finally, actual actions, now that your brains are all filled with facts…

  • Call first on the blue slip/ public statement/ evalutions issue.
  • Then call (or email during the recess if you’d prefer) your Senators on each judge. Be as creative as you want. We’ll have a lifetime to deal with each of these horrors if they’re confirmed.
  • Get your phone ready for faster calling. You’ve got protest rallies to get to!

Script for the whole shebang: I’m calling to ask Sen. [___] withhold blue slips for ALL of Trump’s judicial vacancies and if any make it to a hearing, to insist that all writing, public statements, and client records are considered and that the American Bar Association evaluates them for fitness.

Minimal Script for individual judges: I’m calling to ask Sen. [___] to vote NO on the confirmation of [do each one separately].

(Additional script if you want: This hard-right nominee will set civil rights back decades, destroy a woman’s right to choose, and (add the issue you are most concerned about here).

Contacts:

Senator Feinstein: DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me

Senator Harris: DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884 https://www.harris.senate.gov/content/contact-senator

Not your Senator?: http://www.phoneyourrep.com

Keep track of them: http://judicialnominations.org/pending-nominees

3 thoughts on “Thu 8/17 – Fri 8/18 – The ground beneath our feet.

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