Now that we know the Democratic presidential candidates seeking the party’s nomination, it’s essential that we focus on one of the most critical issues the next occupant of the White House will face: the need to confirm fair-minded judges to our federal courts.
Candidates looking for progressive support—when speaking about their plans for the economy, health care, education and the environment—need to take the opportunity to lay out a compelling vision for something enormous that affects all of those issues: putting fair-minded constitutionalists on the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court.
PFAW is tracking when Democratic presidential candidates emphasize their vision for the courts on their websites, on social media, and in their speeches. Want to help us out? Tweet us using the hashtag #VoteTheCourts2020.
“Today I want to talk about the importance of our courts and who sits on them. And tell you why I support the #VoteTheCourts2020 campaign. Since Trump’s election I have seen judge after judge come through the Senate and they all have one thing in common — a willingness to put a thumb on the scales for the rich and powerful at everyone else’s expense. Less than two weeks ago, five Republican-appointed justices handed over the keys to our democracy to a bunch of cheats by giving them the greenlight to partisan gerrymandering. And now, as the Supreme Court prepares to take on DACA, the stakes are higher than ever. We need to fight back. I’ll appoint fair-minded constitutionalist judges instead of far-right extremists. Judges who will value justice for all, not just for the rich and the powerful. Judges who will defend equality for the most vulnerable among us, not roll back constitutional rights for huge swaths of our country. And I’ll make sure that everyone gets a fair shake in our courts too.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden
“I want someone who understands the 9th Amendment means something. That there’s privacy, that the idea that the number of all those rights and facts is the reason why a woman has a right to choose. The reason why there is, in fact, the ability to. And so, I would not support anyone and never have supported anyone who thinks that a strict reading of the Constitution, like Bork argued, that unless it mentions explicitly in the Constitution that it does not exist, it’s up to the states to determine. And so, I want to make sure judges understand that this is a document designed never to be a statement on its own. It’s a number of all those amendments that make a difference and it makes a gigantic difference.”
Sen. Michael Bennet
“Donald Trump, as a result, has put on the bench more judges than any other president in American history, almost twice as many over the same period of time as Barack Obama had. I think the best way of dealing with that is by electing a president who is committed to putting on the court people who are of good character and who will hue to the Constitution in the way that you described and will make sure, among other things, that a woman’s right to choose is protected and that Roe v. Wade is accepted as a precedent. That’s what I would intend to do.”
Sen. Cory Booker
“So, I mean, the short answer is yes, I will commit to doing that. Even more than that, we have a crisis that’s going to go on until Donald Trump leaves office cause Mitch McConnell is jamming tremendous amount of judges through and forget about their whole judicial philosophy. I even see the uncomfortableness of some of my Republican colleagues when you put people up to be a federal judge who never argued a case in front of the judge, never filed the brief in court, and younger and younger people in hopes to flipping the judicial philosophy of our nation for generations to come.
I’m committed to fair-minded judges who will protect the Constitution, who will defend [against] this terrible slant going on right now that’s taking away power from individual Americans and shifting it towards corporations. We see this with everything from antitrust law being perverted; we see this from Citizens United … that’s allowing corporations to pour dark money. You are seeing the ascendancy of the corporation, we’re seeing the rights of individuals – the right to organize; the right to control your body; the right to join a union – all of these individual rights are being suppressed right now as we see big money corporations influencing us more and more.”
Mayor Pete Buttigieg
“It is critical that we have justices who understand that American freedom includes reproductive rights and reproductive freedom … I expect an understanding that voting rights are human rights. I expect an understanding that equality is required of us all.”
“The first thing we’ve got to do first, of course, is to win… And when we do, seek nominees that think for themselves and understand that constitutional interpretation is not about guessing what one of the men who was around in 1787 believed, but rather taking an approach that is faithful to the letter of the Constitution and interpreting it in a way that makes sense in our time.”
“I want judges and justices first of all who understand…the way that American life interacts with these constitutional texts… the other thing we really need is judges who think for themselves. The right to choose exists because of a Republican-appointed judge who thought for himself. The right to marry exists because of a Republican-appointed judge who thought for himself.”
Sen. John Delaney
“I think it’s important to nominate judges that meet several criteria. The first is that they have to be independent. The American people deserve independent, open-minded judges who are going to follow the law and don’t go there with any particular objective. The second thing is that they have to be experienced. Some of the judges that have come before the Senate this year have had scant experience and they’re being put on for these life positions. So I want people who have actually a track record and experience and are ready to do the job. But then thirdly I want judges who are going to protect the progress we have made as a society. Because I believe we have made a lot of progress. We’ve made a lot of progress on women’s reproductive freedoms. We’ve made a lot of progress on equality, things like marriage equality. And I want judges who are going to protect that. And also who are going to think about people first as opposed to corporations. So that’s how I think about it. I want independent minded people. I want people who are experienced and have the capabilities, the intellectual capabilities, to actually do the job, and receive the life appointments. And I want people who are oriented towards protecting the progress we have made, not turning it back, and thinking about the rights of people, not the rights of corporations. So that’s the general framing I’ll apply to thinking about judges.”
This president, he’s been loading up the court with lots of judges that don’t actually represent mainstream America. And I want the courts to have fair minded judges who enforce the law and judges who are also committed to protecting the progress we’ve made as a society in individual rights, women’s rights and that’s really important to me.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
“I think one of the biggest threats to us and to our freedoms in this country has been the increasing politicization of the courts. We’re seeing now how important it is, obviously, to make sure that we are nominating judges and Supreme Court justices who are first and foremost committed to upholding the Constitution and the rights and freedoms enshrined there bestowed upon every single one of us as Americans. Obviously Roe v. Wade continues to be an issue of great concern. Again, making sure that we have judges who will uphold standing law, uphold that precedent, and make sure that those freedoms that we cherish are not infringed upon based on whatever political party is in power.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
“I would appoint judges that are in the vein of people like Elena Kagan and Justice Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, and let’s not forget the notorious RBG … We have to immediately start putting judges on the bench to fill vacancies so that we can reverse the horrific nature of these Trump judges.”
“That has got to be something where we hit the ground running on Day One. I actually put together over 100 things we can do in the first 100 days. And one of them is appointing judges. I’ve been pretty good about getting judges appointed that are fair minded and getting it done in a smart way and I’m going to do that as president.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders
“My pledge to you … is that as president of the United States, I will appoint Supreme Court justices and nominate [judges] all across the board who will represent the needs of people of color, of working people, and who are prepared to believe and fight for justice – not just the people on top.”
“It’s also time to call out corruption in the federal judiciary. Increasingly, big-shot corporate lawyers are getting appointed as federal judges, and they turn out one decision after another in favor of corporations and against the interests of American consumers, against unions, and against vulnerable people who must count on the courts to protect their rights. Shadowy right-wing groups have spent millions of dollars to ram through aggressively unqualified nominees who are likely to advance their causes. No one should be surprised that public confidence in our federal courts is at an all-time low. But we can fix it! We will rewrite the basic code of ethics for federal judges, and we will appoint a whole new generation of judges with diverse background and a wide range of legal experiences. Judges who actually believe in fundamental principles like rule of law and civil rights and equal justice.”
“Today I want to talk about the importance of our courts and who sits on them. And tell you why I support the #VoteTheCourts2020 campaign. Since Trump’s election I have seen judge after judge come through the Senate and they all have one thing in common — a willingness to put a thumb on the scales for the rich and powerful at everyone else’s expense. Less than two weeks ago, five Republican-appointed justices handed over the keys to our democracy to a bunch of cheats by giving them the greenlight to partisan gerrymandering. And now, as the Supreme Court prepares to take on DACA, the stakes are higher than ever. We need to fight back. I’ll appoint fair-minded constitutionalist judges instead of far-right extremists. Judges who will value justice for all, not just for the rich and the powerful. Judges who will defend equality for the most vulnerable among us, not roll back constitutional rights for huge swaths of our country. And I’ll make sure that everyone gets a fair shake in our courts too. My anti-corruption bill makes Supreme Court justices follow the same ethics requirements that all other federal judges have to follow. No more payments from corporations for attending events and no more lavish getaways and fancy hunting trips funded by billionaires who have business in front of the courts. If we fight together, if we persist together, we can create a fairer and more equal and just America.”
“I think the most disappointing about Hillary Clinton losing to Donald Trump because he has had the opportunity to put two judges on the Supreme Court, both of whom are strict corporatists and he’s had the opportunity to do a lot more on other levels of the judiciary.”
“I would use every possible opportunity and every possible appointment…to bring back the people whose consciousness is in alignment with the idea that ‘all men are created equal’ and believe that this is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”