People For the American Way

More Trump Judges on the Federal Bench: A Cause for Alarm, Not Celebration

Op-Ed
More Trump Judges on the Federal Bench: A Cause for Alarm, Not Celebration
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This post originally appeared on Medium. 

On November 6, President Trump celebrated the confirmation of his federal judicial nominees as a “milestone” during a press event at the White House.

Since he took office, Trump has appointed 43 ultra-conservative judges to lifetime positions on our federal appellate courts. But this is not a milestone to celebrate, and Americans should be alarmed rather than exuberant. In just over two years, Trump’s appeals court judges have severely harmed the rights and jeopardized the health and safety of millions of us.

Their extreme positions are too much even for many of George W. Bush’s and Ronald Reagan’s conservative judges. Rather than celebrating, we should do everything we can to stop additional Trump judges from being confirmed and to hold accountable Trump and the senators who voted to confirm the current narrow-minded elitist crop.

So what are the areas in which Trump judges have done their worst work? Sadly, the list keeps growing. But there are some early standouts.

Let’s start with women’s rights. On the 6th Circuit, Trump appellate judges, including Supreme Court short-listers Joan Larsen and Amul Thapar, cast the deciding votes to uphold an Ohio law that bars funding to Planned Parenthood for health care, because the organization provides abortions.Planned Parenthood uses only private funds to provide abortions; what Trump’s judges voted to defund are essential health care services like cervical and breast cancer screenings and pregnancy prevention education.

John Bush, another Trump judge on the 6th Circuit, wrote a divided decision upholding Kentucky’s harmful “informed consent” law that forces women seeking abortion care to listen to the fetal heartbeat and subjects them to mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds, a medically unnecessary and potentially harmful procedure that violates women’s bodily autonomy and subjects them to potential shame and agony in an already vulnerable moment.

And that’s just the 6th Circuit. Julius Richardson and Allison Rushing, two Trump judges on the 4th and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals, cast key votes that kept in effect the Trump administration’s gag rule prohibiting federally funded clinics from even mentioning abortion to patients. And on the 8th Circuit, Trump judge David Stras cast the deciding vote to allow manslaughter prosecution of a woman for prenatal overuse of legal drugs that helped lead to the tragic death of a newborn child.

What about employment, housing and other discrimination? All four 7th Circuit Trump judges — SCOTUS short-lister Amy Coney Barrett, Michael Brennan, Michael Scudder and Amy St. Eve — cast deciding votes to rule that older workers cannot claim that an employer’s hiring practices have a discriminatory impact on them. All five Trump appointees on the 5th Circuit — James Ho, Don Willet, Kyle Duncan, Kurt Engelhardt and Andrew Oldham — cast deciding votes to reaffirm a decision that seriously undermines the Fair Housing Act and disproportionately affects people of color.

Meanwhile on the 8th Circuit, Stras wrote a 2–1 decision creating an exemption based on religion from a Minnesota anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ people. Engelhardt also cast the deciding vote to deny a Latino police detective’s discrimination claim without trial, and Barrett voted to allow a corporation to racially segregate its workplaces.

In fact, Trump judges’ have given corporations tremendous latitude to the detriment of both company employees and consumers. For example, Barrett wrote a divided decision that denied consumers the ability to enforce their debt collection rights under federal law against abusive debt collection practices. Barrett also joined Brennan, Scudder, and St. Eve to reverse a past precedent and prohibit the Federal Trade Commission from seeking restitution for victims of consumer fraud.

Trump judge Julius Richardson wrote a 2–1 decision that denied black lung benefits to a retired coal miner with permanent respiratory disabilities. Stras cast the deciding vote to overturn a North Dakota law that protected farmers from equipment manufacturing corporations that wanted to close important local dealerships. Thapar, Larsen, Nalbandian, and Murphy claimed in dissent that city officials should be immune from any liability for the Flint water crisis. And Ho, Willet, Duncan, Engelhardt, and Oldham all helped strike down a law that said that the president should not be able to fire the head of an independent agency set up by Congress to be independent and to help solve the mortgage debt crisis.

These are just a few of the rulings and opinions by Trump appeals court judges that endanger our rights and freedoms as Americans. Their rulings are so extreme that in several of the examples listed above, conservative judges appointed by Presidents Bush and Reagan dissented. In one case, a conservative Bush judge specifically criticized the majority opinion because it improperly “substitutes its own judgment” for that of the legislature.

People For the American Way’s Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears reports and blog series is tracking these decisions to illustrate the scope of their impact. These rulings come as no surprise, because the nominees all went up to the Senate with records making their narrow-minded agenda clear.

Rather than celebrating Trump and Republican senators for placing these judges on the bench, we must hold them accountable for their actions next November. That means casting votes for candidates who will only appoint and confirm fair-minded constitutionalists to the federal bench — and soundly rejecting those who won’t.