Judicial Crisis Network

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.

Meet the Group Trying To Stop President Obama From Filling Vacancies on Federal Courts

Later this week, the Senate will vote on ending the Republican filibuster of Patricia Millett, the first of President Obama’s three nominees to fill vacancies on the influential US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Republican senators have no beef with Millett personally (she’s a renowned appellate attorney, military spouse and black belt), but they’re still threatening to block all three nominees because, they contend, President Obama is attempting to “pack” the 11-member court by going through the constitutionally mandated process to fill its three vacancies.

Backing up this obstruction effort, one familiar outside group has again stepped up to carry Republicans’ water: the Judicial Crisis Network.

In the 2004, as the battle was heating up over confirming some of President Bush’s most far-right nominees, former Bush-Cheney religious right outreach staffer Gary Marx and former Justice Thomas clerk Wendy Long teamed up to found a group called the Judicial Confirmation Network, housed in the offices of the right-wing American Center for Law and Justice and dedicated to “working to ensure a fair appointment process of highly qualified judges and justices.”

Four years later, the Judicial Confirmation Network found itself in a bind when President Obama was elected to be the one nominating federal judges. All of a sudden, JCN lost interest in working to confirm “highly qualified judges and justices” to the bench. So, in 2010 the group changed its name to the Judicial Crisis Network and announced that its mission would heretofore be “to confront the radical legal and legislative threats facing our country” – that is, trying to prevent President Obama from filling seats on the federal courts with highly qualified judges and justices.

Today, the Judicial Crisis Network has emerged as the primary outside group working to prevent the Senate from confirming President Obama’s three nominees to fill the three vacancies on the influential US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. JCN is running radio ads targeting moderate senators urging them to filibuster the three nominees and has launched a snazzy website with infographics purporting to show that President Obama’s nominating qualified people to existing judicial vacancies amounts to “court packing.”

Our colleague Paul Gordon has done a thorough point-by-point takedown of JCN’s “court packing” infographics, but the bottom line is this: Like Senate Republicans who are now trying to permanently cap the DC Circuit at eight judges, JCN sang an entirely different tune when it was a Republican president was doing the nominating.

In the era when JCN was the Judicial Confirmation Network, President Bush had four nominees confirmed to the DC Circuit, bringing its total number of active judges up to 11. Meanwhile, due to Republican obstruction, President Obama has had just one nominee confirmed to the court, bringing the total number of judges on the court to eight.

JCN and Republican senators contend that the DC Circuit’s caseload is significantly lower now than it was then, meriting a reduction of the number of judges on the court. That’s simply not true [pdf]. For instance, in June 2005, when the Senate confirmed far-right Bush nominees Janice Rogers Brown and Thomas Griffith to the tenth and eleventh seats on the DC Circuit, there were 1,313 cases pending before the court. Today, as the GOP is trying to cap the court at eight judges, it is facing 1,479 pending cases.

In 2005, the Judicial Confirmation Network was reminding senators of their “obligation to bring these nominations to the floor for a fair vote.” Today, the Judicial Crisis Network is urging senators to deny floor votes to nominees in the same position.

Later today, JCN’s chief counsel Carrie Severino will be a witness at a House hearing on the DC Circuit titled “Are More Judges Always the Answer?” We can guess that Severino’s public answer to that question will be “no.” But a more forthright answer would be, “It depends who’s nominating them.”
 

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.”

Previewing the Right Wing Playbook on the Kagan Confirmation Hearings

When Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement plans, the Right swung into action with a plan to make the confirmation process just one more part of their 2010 and 2012 political strategies.
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