Judicial Confirmation Network

GOP NY Senate Candidate Speaks To Militant Oath Keepers Group

Wendy Long, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in New York, spoke on Saturday to the state chapter of Oath Keepers, a radical anti-government group whose founder has called for the execution of Republican Sen. John McCain.

At the New York Oath Keepers event, Long thanked Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes “for founding this whole organization” and appealed to her audience by declaring that Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democrat whom she is hoping to unseat, is “one of the greatest enemies of the Constitution.”

“I am running against one of the greatest enemies of the Constitution, Chuck Schumer, in the United States Senate,” she said. “He’s an enemy not only of the Second Amendment — which, you know, everyone knows he’s the face of the anti-Second Amendment movement, which, by the way, is in great peril.”

Mentioning the recent Ninth Circuit ruling on concealed firearms, Long said, “The Second Amendment’s in great danger, as is the rest of the Constitution, as you all know.”

As it happens, Schumer was named at the event as one of the group’s “dirty dozen” of “great Marxist traitors in America.”

Long is the former leader of the Judicial Confirmation Network, a right-wing advocacy group that pushed for the confirmation of conservative judicial nominees during the Bush administration. The group is now called the Judicial Crisis Network and is leading the effort to obstruct President Obama's Supreme Court nominee.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center has explained, the “core idea” of the Oath Keepers “is that its members vow to forever support the oaths they took on joining law enforcement or the military to defend the Constitution.” But the reality of the organization is a constant stream of conspiracy theories feeding the idea that the federal government is out to get ordinary citizens and can only be stopped by armed Oath Keepers who answer directly the Constitution (or their interpretation of it).

As we wrote last month, “Rhodes, the group’s founder, regularly turns to the far-right media to promote conspiracy theories about a coming civil war in which the federal government will use some combination of race war, Jade Helm 15, gun laws, Ebola ,death campsBlack Lives Matter and radical Islamists to subdue an unarmed and unprepared population.”

The Oath Keepers were a major player in the Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014, which Rhodes said afterward nearly “kicked off a civil war” between armed militias and the federal government. Last year, Rhodes said at an event in Arizona that McCain should be tried for treason and “hung by the neck until dead” for going “along with the program of the destruction of this country.”

Also speaking at the New York event was Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, a rising star in the conservative media, who accepted a Leadership Award from the group. Clarke, seemingly taking a page from Donald Trump, began his speech with several minutes of haranguing the media in attendance, to the delight of his audience, before saying that he would do “everything I can” to get Trump elected. He slammed Black Lives Matter as a “hate group” while comparing groups like the Oath Keepers to the Founding Fathers: “The Founding Fathers of this great nation were also once dubbed as a dangerous ‘Patriot group’ by the crown after they declared their independence.”

Rhodes also spoke, repeating his frequent warning that America is being “divided and conquered on racial lines” in a deliberate liberal attempt to undermine the country. John Faso, a former state assembly minority leader who is now running for a U.S. House seat, also spoke to the group.

Do Conservatives Even Believe In The Bill Of Rights?

The Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) has somehow managed to stoop even lower in its dishonest and deceitful campaign to block the Senate from even considering whomever President Obama nominates to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Carrie Severino of JCN, which was founded as the Judicial Confirmation Network but rebranded as a group opposed to judicial confirmations coincidentally after Obama took office, took to National Review last week to attack Jane Kelly, a U.S. circuit court judge whom Obama is reportedly considering nominating to the high court, for once defending a child predator while working as a public defender.

As Zachary Pleat of Media Matters pointed out, Severino not only twisted Kelly’s actions in the case, but attacked Kelly simply for doing her job as a defense attorney.

Severino, a former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, must know that even people accused of heinous crimes have a right to an attorney who would vigorously defend their client. It would completely undermine the judicial process to say that the accused should have no legal representation or should have a lawyer who will simply throw the case rather than fulfill their obligation to defend them.

After all, the right to a fair trial lies at the heart of the Sixth Amendment, and JCN actively promoted the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, who once worked on the defense of convicted murderer John Ferguson.

This attack, Pleat writes, “echoes past right-wing media attacks on Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and former Department of Justice civil rights division nominee Debo Adegbile.”

Several conservative pundits accused Clinton of leading a “war on women” after she was asked by a judge, in 1975, to defend a sexual assault suspect while she was working in legal aid, while Senate Republicans successfully blocked Adegbile’s nomination to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division because they were upset he once worked on a legal team representing Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killed a police officer, on an appeals case regarding whether sentencing instructions given to a jury were constitutional. As Miranda said:

It was an ugly episode, in which politicians like [Ted] Cruz essentially declared that not all criminal defendants deserve the Constitution’s guarantee of legal counsel. And it’s telling that Cruz, the self-proclaimed lover of the Constitution, brought it up in his latest ugly screed.

Clinton and Adegbile aren’t the only people targeted by Republicans simply for acting as defense attorneys.

In 2014, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) ran attack ads against South Carolina state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, a Democratic candidate for governor, for his work as a criminal defense attorney, using the tagline: “Vincent Sheheen: he represents criminals, not us.”

South Carolina Bar Association President Alice Paylor said the RGA ad campaign amounted to an attack on “the whole basis for the U.S. and the U.S. Constitution. According to them, I guess everyone accused of something is automatically guilty.”

The American Bar Association sent a letter to Gov. Chris Christie, a former prosecutor who chaired the RGA at the time, noting, “Lawyers have an ethical obligation to uphold that principle and provide zealous representation to people who otherwise would stand alone against the power and resources of the government – even to those accused or convicted of terrible crimes.”

The rule of law that governs our society delivers justice specifically because everyone has a right to competent representation. This right is especially important for those who arouse our fear and anger, to ensure that the process by which they are judged is fair and just. This process is what distinguishes us from our darker history, when mobs decided guilt or innocence and punished those they deemed guilty.

And in 2010, a group formed by Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney, the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, launched attack ads “against the Obama Justice Department for hiring lawyers who, at one time or another, did legal work on behalf of terror suspects.” The group branded the lawyers the "Al Qaeda 7," questioned their loyalty to the country and demanded that the Justice Department release their names.

We can only imagine how Republicans would have gone after John Adams for representing soldiers charged with murder during the Boston Massacre.

The Judicial Crisis Network's Incredibly Dishonest Pro-Obstruction Ad

The messaging that conservatives seem to have settled on regarding the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia is that somehow Americans won’t have a say in who the next justice is unless the confirmation of any nominee is stalled until after the next president takes office. (No matter that the current president was, in fact, elected by the American people for this very job.)

The first TV ad out of the gates in the Supreme Court battle comes from the Judicial Crisis Network, which uses this messaging in an effort to pressure Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to stand strong on denying a hearing to any Obama nominee for the seat.

The screen shows softly lit stock footage of diverse Americans as a voiceover says:

It’s ‘We the People.’ Sometimes the politicians forget that. The Supreme Court has a vacancy and your vote in November is your only voice. Sen. Chuck Grassley agrees: the American people should decide. This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about your voice. You choose the next president, the next president chooses the next justice. Call Sen. Chuck Grassley. Thank him for letting the people decide.

This is what Vice President Biden might call “a bunch of malarkey.”

At the same time as her group was preparing this ad about the supposed high American ideals of not letting the president fulfill his constitutional obligation to appoint Supreme Court justices, the Judicial Crisis Network’s top attorney, Carrie Severino, was telling a conservative news network something very different, saying that failure to block an Obama nominee would be “political malpractice” on the part of Republicans.

In a statement shortly after Scalia’s passing, Severino made it clear that this stand was specifically about conservatives’ animosity toward Obama, whom, she said, is “the last person” who should be appointing the justice’s successor.

And, of course, we always have to note that during the George W. Bush administration the Judicial Crisis Network was called the Judicial Confirmation Network and that its stated mission was to ensure that “the confirmation process for all judicial nominees is fair and that every nominee sent to the full Senate receives an up or down vote." As far as we know, the Judicial Confirmation Network didn’t oppose any of the 28 federal judges who were confirmed during Bush’s final year in office.

But it definitely “isn’t about Republicans and Democrats”!

JCN Cries Crocodile Tears For Senate Bipartisanship

After President Obama was elected, the right-wing Judicial Confirmation Network changed its name to the Judicial Crisis Network and altered its mission from “working to ensure a fair appointment process of highly qualified judges and justices” to blocking anyone Obama appoints to the bench.

The group’s name and mission statement aren’t the only things to have changed under a Democratic president. JCN’s chief counsel Carrie Severino appeared last week on Sandy Rios In The Morning to decry the Senate’s recent move to modify the filibuster to allow a simple majority to end debate on most nominees – a rules change that the JCN once said it supported “regardless of what party’s in power.”

“The 60 vote majority is there because we need to have both parties working together,” Severino said. “You don’t want to do things by a bare majority vote all the time, and it is actually a benefit to get something that has a larger consensus. I don’t know if Thomas Jefferson initiated it but I wouldn’t be surprised because those kinds of consensuses things that our founders thought were important.”

But during the Bush era Severino’s predecessor, Wendy Long, now a Republican politician, said in 2006 that finding a “consensus” over judicial nominees is “not the right thing to do”:

Seeking a 'consensus' candidate is not the right thing to do. It is not what the Constitution contemplates, in our system built on the consent of the governed. Majorities didn't elect George W. Bush and 55 Republican Senators to do that. For the President to choose a Justice on this basis would retroactively disenfranchise the voters in these elections. The people elected the President so that he would exercise his own judgment according to the criteria he stated in two elections. By definition, those will never be 'consensus' nominees. Justices Ginsburg and Breyer were not 'consensus' nominees, nor should any Republican nominees be — particularly when Republicans control the Senate, for heaven's sake.

But the real issue with Severino’s claim is that Senate Republicans didn’t block Obama’s three picks for the DC Circuit Court because they weren’t “consensus” candidates. Rather, GOP leaders explicitly said they would oppose any person President Obama nominated to the court — a position that they took before even knowing who the nominees would be.

Plus, Republicans’ unprecedented obstructionism — cheered on by the JCN — makes it hard to believe that they were merely hoping for “both parties to work together” to find a “consensus” as Severino maintains.

JCN's Wendy Long Resurfaces in Run for Senate

Once upon a time, there was a right-wing group called The Judicial Confirmation Network that was created "to ensure that the confirmation process for all judicial nominees is fair and that every nominee sent to the full Senate receives an up or down vote." 

Such a mission made sense back during the George W. Bush administration, when the group was founded ... but didn't work so well when Barack Obama was elected and suddenly the organization was fighting to ensure that his nominees didn't get confirmed.

Eventually, the JCN realized that it couldn't keep calling itself the Judicial Confirmation Network if it was actively working to prevent the confirmation of judges, so the name was changed to the Judicial Crisis Network and the group likewise wrote up a new mission statement.

Eventually, the original founders left, with Executive Director Gary Marx signing on with Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition and Chief Counsel Wendy Long stepping down in order to "devote her time to her family and other causes."

Among those "other causes" to which Long is dedicating herself is a run for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in November.

Last month, Long won the endorsement of the Conservative Party of New York State and today secured the endorsement of the anti-abortion zealots over at the Susan B. Anthony List:

The Susan B. Anthony List, the influential pro-life organization, offered an early and enthusiastic endorsement for Republican Senate candidate Wendy Long this morning.

“There could not be a more clear contrast between longtime pro-life leader Wendy Long and EMILY’s List poster child Senator [Kirsten] Gillibrand,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the group's president, in a statement ... “From her days as a Hill staffer to her time at Americans United for Life and her work on behalf of Supreme Court Justices who practice judicial restraint, Wendy has constantly been engaged in the fight for adherence to the Constitution and the right to Life laid out in the Declaration of Independence,” Dannenfelser said in the statement. “We look forward to having her back on Capitol Hill and adding to the number of pro-life women in the Senate.”

...

In her statement, Dannenfelser echoed Long's earlier criticism of Gillibrand for accusing Republicans of waging a "war on women."

“Wendy understands that the only ‘war on women’ is the one being waged against women of faith and conscience by the Obama administration and their allies in Congress and the abortion lobby. She has boldly called on Senator Gillibrand to end the assault on Life, conscience, and religious liberty.”

Editorial Memo: The Right's Recycled Supreme Court Strategy

Right-wing advocates who have made a decades-long push to bring federal courts under ideological domination are planning to wage a campaign against any nominee President Obama makes to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Themes from the Right -- Nomination Day

Right-wing political and legal groups and pundits responded to President Barack Obama’s nomination of federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court by cranking up their well-funded attack machine, following their pre-fab attack script (they have been attacking her for months as a potential nominee), launching ads against her confirmation, and threatening to use the nomination as a political bludgeon against Democrats from more conservative states.

Right Wing Follows Deceptive Script On Supreme Court

A day after news of Justice Souter's planned resignation broke in the news, "dozens" of right-wing leaders representing more than 60 groups got together for a strategy call organized in part by the Judicial Confirmation Network to get everyone fired up and on message. All you need to know about the credibility of this campaign's leaders, and the credibility of their evaluations of potential nominees, is contained in this one sentence from the Judicial Confirmation Network's Wendy Long: "The current Supreme Court is a liberal, judicial activist court."

Attacks on DOJ Nominees Signal Right's Judicial Nominations Strategy

Right-wing political and legal organizations have unleashed a coordinated campaign of over-the-top attacks on the qualifications, records, and fitness of President Obama’s nominees for important positions in the U.S. Justice Department. Deputy Attorney General nominee David Ogden has been the prime target of the Right’s wrath, but Solicitor General nominee Elena Kagan, Associate Attorney General nominee Thomas Perrelli, and Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen have also come in for their share of criticism.

McCain Backers Use Supreme Court as Excuse for Cynical Hatchet Job

PFAW's Kolbert: We need a conversation about the Court and the Constitution, not more sleaze from the smearmongers of the Right

The Judicial Confirmation Network, a group of right-wing activists that mobilized support for the Bush administration's efforts to impose its political agenda on the federal judiciary, has launched a mud-slinging ad campaign that is ostensibly about the Supreme Court but does nothing to address the issues at stake for all Americans in the future of the judiciary.

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