Many conservatives took a break over the summer from their typical screeds against so-called judicial activism as they demanded the Supreme Court step in and overturn the 2010 health care reform law. After the court upheld the law, they simply decried the ruling as “activism” anyway, further proving that right-wing activists see cases of judicial activism as really just decisions they disagree with.
Now, Truth in Action Ministries has released a new film, Freedom on Trial, featuring Robert Bork, the failed Supreme Court nominee and a senior adviser to Mitt Romney, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, Christian Reconstructionist attorney Herb Titus and Heritage Foundation vice president Genevieve Wood, among other conservative speakers who denounce the judiciary for “circumventing the Constitution and legislating from the bench.” Freedom on Trial focuses on the usual conservative criticisms of Supreme Court decisions regarding organized prayer in public schools, reproductive rights and LGBT equality. Bork warns that courts are “teaching the people that religion is evil” and Titus claims that decisions that go against the Ten Commandments will “destroy the country” while rulings in favor of LGBT rights are “making a certain sexual behavior straight when it is crooked and the nation will self-destruct.”
Watch highlights here:
Today, representatives from People For the American Way joined with advocacy groups and concerned citizens from across the country to meet with Obama administration officials about ending the vacancy crisis in America’s federal courts.
Groups concerned about the judicial vacancy crisis issued a joint statement, which can be found here.
The White House meeting brings together 150 advocates from 27 states to discuss the vacancy crisis that is plaguing America’s federal courts. One in ten federal court seats is currently or will soon be vacant, yet Republican obstruction has caused unprecedented delays for nominees to fill those seats.
“It’s encouraging that the Obama administration is so clearly placing a priority on ending the vacancy crisis in the federal courts,” said Marge Baker of People For the American Way. “The president and Congress have a duty to work together to ensure that all Americans have access to fair and effective courts. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have too often been shirking that duty as they seek to slow even the most basic business of Congress.
“Gridlock in Washington has resulted in gridlock in the federal courts and inexcusable delays for Americans seeking justice. Today, the voices of people who are hurt by this gridlock will be heard loud and clear in Washington.”
People For the American Way released an infographic today detailing the impact of Republican obstruction of judicial nominees:
(Click image for a larger pdf version of the infographic.)
Last week, we unveiled a campaign featuring a website, web ad, and report exposing Mitt Romney’s dangerous agenda for America’s courts, as demonstrated by the fact that Robert Bork has been tapped to lead Romney's constitutional and judicial advisory team.
As the report noted, Romney's choice of judicial advisors "spells serious trouble for the American people" ... and it is no surprise that it is also music to the ear of the Religious Right.
On today's episode of "WallBuilders Live," David Barton and Rick Green invited Jordan Sekulow, who worked for Romney back in 2008, to make the case as to why the Religious Right can and should support Romney. While Green was skeptical at first, Barton needed no convincing because Jay Sekulow (Jordan's father) was going to be involved in picking Romney's judges and that was all he needed to hear:
This has not been a hard thing for evangelicals to get over and support Romney and it shouldn't be a hard thing. When Romney ran four years ago, he wasn't my first choice but the reason I never got really worried about Romney was Jay Sekulow. And I tell you he has been very intimately involved in helping get folks like Alito and Roberts on the court. And four years ago, I heard that Sekulow is the guy that Romney has tapped to choose his judges and I said "that's it." I don't have any trouble with Romney because Isaiah 1:26 tells me the righteousness of nation is determined, not by the legislature, but by its judges. And if Romney's got folks like Sekulow picking his judges, I can live with that in a heartbeat.
When Jordan Sekulow joined the program, he made the case that conservatives should support Romney because he has pledged to nominate judges like Samuel Alito and John Roberts and has filled his campaign with people who are going to keep his feet to the fire:
Green: How important is it for us to recognize that if Romney is president, who has his ear? Who are the people that will consider those judges versus another four years of Obama if he gets another quarter of the judiciary appointed?
Sekulow: You've already got people who are long-time Romney supporters like my dad, who has argued thirteen cases before the Supreme Court and was very involved with President Bush - he was one of four people that were involved in the nomination process in the Bush White House - and so if you like Alito and Roberts, these are the kind of people. You have Judge Bork, who was filibustered by the Senate, voted down by the Senate actually, and he is on the Romney committee.
You want Kagan and Sotomayor, and I was at the Supreme Court during the 'Obamacare' oral arguments, you probably don't want more of that, or do you want more Alito and Roberts? And he's made those pledges; I think we need to come to the campaign say "alright, you made these pledges, we're going to keep you honest to them and keep your feet to the fire."
Earlier this week, President Obama predicted that the Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of healthcare reform legislation, saying it would be unprecedented that "an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”
Can we just point out that one of the central platforms [PDF] of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign was that he was literally going to arrest federal judges who issued rulings that he didn't like and ignore Supreme Court decisions with which he disagreed?
Oddly, nobody on the Right uttered a peep when Gingrich made those threats ... nor did they voice any outrage back in 2007 when President George W. Bush addressed the Federalist Society and warned that unelected judges legislating from the bench represented a "threat to our democracy":
When the Founders drafted the Constitution, they had a clear understanding of tyranny. They also had a clear idea about how to prevent it from ever taking root in America. Their solution was to separate the government's powers into three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Each of these branches plays a vital role in our free society. Each serves as a check on the others. And to preserve our liberty, each must meet its responsibilities -- and resist the temptation to encroach on the powers the Constitution accords to others.
For the judiciary, resisting this temptation is particularly important, because it's the only branch that is unelected and whose officers serve for life. Unfortunately, some judges give in to temptation and make law instead of interpreting. Such judicial lawlessness is a threat to our democracy -- and it needs to stop.
On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture petitions to end GOP filibusters of 17 district court nominees, an extraordinary move brought on by unprecedented Republican obstruction. The Senate GOP started immediately to try to spin the story to try to cover for the gridlock they had created. Here are the five main Republican talking points on the judicial obstruction showdown and the facts that rebut them:
GOP Talking Point #1: Senate Democrats have invented this conflict to make Republicans look bad. This is a little skirmish about timing that’s been blown out of proportion.
Sen. McConnell: “Rather than try to manufacture gridlock and create the illusion of conflict where none exists, why don’t we demonstrate we can kind of get something done together?”
Sen. Alexander: "This is a little disagreement that we have here between the Majority leader and the Republican leader on the scheduling of votes on district judges. It's not a high constitutional matter. It's not even a high principle. It's not even a big disagreement.”
GOP Talking Point #2: The GOP’s obstruction is a direct response to President Obama’s recess appointments.
Sen. Lee: "After the president made four unconstitutional appointments, we could no longer sustain the same level of cooperation.”
GOP Talking Point #3: Some of the filibustered nominees haven’t been on the calendar all that long, what’s the hurry?
Sen. Alexander: “We have 17 district court judgeships that have been recommended by the Judiciary committee. They could be brought up by the majority leader. He has the right to do that but of those 17, six of them - six of them - have been here for less than 30 days. They just got here.”
GOP Talking Point #4: Senate Republicans are floating plans to vote “present” on the 17 cloture petitions, thus continuing to stall the nominees while not being tagged with a “no” vote.
Sen. Cornyn: “Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told POLITICO he thinks Republicans will vote ‘no’ or ‘present’ on the cloture votes on judges and won't allow Democrats to ‘jam’ them.”
GOP Talking Point #5: The Senate has more important issues to focus on.
Sen. McConnell: “It could be that is precisely what my friend the Majority leader has in mind, to try to make the Senate look like it's embroiled in controversy where no controversy exists. So my suggestion is, why don't we do first things first.”
Press Contact: Miranda Blue, (202) 497-4999, firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier this week a Great Falls Tribune reporter found something startling in his inbox: a shockingly racist and misogynistic email forwarded from the most powerful federal judge in Montana, which "joked" that the president of the United States was the product of his mother having sex with a dog. The story soon became national news, with groups like ours calling on Judge Richard Cebull to resign. Cebull quickly apologized to the president and submitted himself to a formal ethics review, somewhat quelling the story. But the story is about more than one judge doing something wildly inappropriate and deeply disturbing. It's about a conservative movement in which the bile and animosity directed at the president -- and even his family -- are so poisonous that even someone who should know better easily confuses political criticism and sick personal attack. Come on: going after the president's late mother? Attempting to explain his email forward, Judge Cebull told the reporter, John S. Adams,
The only reason I can explain it to you is I am not a fan of our president, but this goes beyond not being a fan. I didn't send it as racist, although that's what it is. Is sent it out because it's anti-Obama.
Judge Cebull is hardly alone in using the old "I'm not racist, but..." line. In fact, his email was the result of an entire movement built on "I'm not racist, but..." logic that equates disagreement with and dislike of the president with broad-based, racially charged smears. These smears, tacitly embraced by the GOP establishment, are more than personal shots at the president -- they're attacks on the millions of Americans who make up our growing and changing country. Mainstream conservatives have genuine objections to President Obama's priorities and policies. But since he started running for president, a parallel movement has sprung up trying to paint Obama as an outsider and an imposter -- in unmistakably racially charged terms. Too often, the two movements have intersected. The effort to paint Obama as a threatening foreigner sprung up around the right-wing fringe in the run-up to the 2008 election with the typically muddled conspiracy theory that painted him as both a secret Muslim and a member of an America-hating church. They soon coalesced in the birther movement, which even today is championed by a strong coalition of state legislators and a certain bombastic Arizona sheriff. But the birther movement, the "secret Muslim" meme and the idea that the president of the United States somehow hates his own country are no longer confined to the less visible right-wing fringe. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, until recently a frontrunner in the GOP presidential race, continually hammers on the president's otherness, most notably criticizing his "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior." Rick Santorum flatly claims that Obama does not have the Christian faith that he professes, and eagerly courted the endorsement of birther leader Sheriff Joe Arpaio. And before they dropped out, Rick Perry and Herman Cain couldn't resist flirting with birtherism. But perhaps more than either of these fringe-candidates-turned-frontrunners, Mitt Romney has been catering to the strain of conservatism that deliberately confuses policy disagreements with racially-charged personal animosity. Romney went in front of TV cameras to smilingly accept the endorsement of Donald Trump, whose own failed presidential campaign was based on demanding the president's readily available birth certificate. And Gov. Romney continually attacks Obama -- falsely -- for going around the world "apologizing for America." Judge Cebull needs to take responsibility for his own actions. And if the GOP has any aspirations of providing real leadership to this country, it needs to jettison the deeply personal vitriol being direct against Barack Obama and start talking about real issues. When a federal judge has seen so much racially-charged propaganda against the president of the United States that he can claim not to know the difference between genuine disagreement and offensive personal smears, something in our discourse has gone terribly awry.
Gordon Klingenschmitt is asking activists to pay him big money to stop the Senate from confirming Jesse Furman to the Southern District Court of New York. Klingenschmitt is asking for upwards to $159 to send faxes to Senators to stop Furman and two other nominees from “forcing their anti-Jesus, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual views on the American people.” While Klingenschmitt’s attacks are completely over the top, there’s a more obvious sign that Klingenschmitt’s campaign is completely off base: Furman has already been confirmed. Earlier this month the Senate voted 62-34 to approve Furman’s nomination in the face of intense GOP obstructionism.
Activist Judge Jesse Furman once legislated from the bench to change the First Amendment to allow unprecedented erosion to freedom of religion and speech. Furman tried to ban a Christian organization from using public property. The Supreme Court emphatically shot him down, and not even the liberals on the bench supported him. The high court rebuked Furman's idea that "to extend the school day for elementary school children by offering religious worship, instruction and indoctrination on public school grounds would result in an unprecedented erosion of Establishment Clause values that would reverberate well beyond this particular case." Furman banned Christian kids!
Please select here to sign urgent petition, and we will fax all 100 Senators (saving you time!) to OPPOSE and FILIBUSTER three bad judges to stop forcing their anti-Jesus, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual views on the American people.
But the Supreme Court ruled kids are free to assemble for worship, firmly rebuking Furman's anti-Jesus views. Furman had ruled that First Amendment Rights of free speech do not extend to Christians, "because they do not promote cohesion among heterogeneous democratic people." He wrote in his official brief to the Supreme Court that all forms of traditional Christianity are intolerant because they label children as either unsaved or unsaved.
Newt Gingrich appeared on Monday’s program of WallBuilders Live with David Barton and Rick Green, where Gingrich once again praised Barton’s right-wing pseudo-history and activism. In fact, Gingrich gave Barton credit for helping him develop his plan to assault the “judicial dictatorship” if elected president. He told Barton and Green that his plan is sending shockwaves through the “the secular left, which has been using the courts to replace the America we grew up in” by legalizing abortion, “driving God out of public life” and making same-sex marriages become “legitimized as if they were the same between traditional marriage between a man and a woman.”
Gingrich added that he would appoint judges in the mold of Robert George, the chairman of the National Organization for Marriage and a drafter of the Manhattan Declaration who has called people to defy Supreme Court decisions on issues like marriage that they disagree with, and graduates of Regent University and Liberty University, the schools founded by the far-right televangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, respectively. Regent University absorbed the Oral Roberts University law program and teaches conservative Christian interpretations of the law, and the Liberty University School of Law even pressured students to disobey U.S. law if it conflicts with what they believe is “God’s law” in situations such as the Lisa Miller kidnapping case. Gingrich also pointed to the right-wing Federalist Society as a source for judicial appointments
Gingrich: What you have is, the secular left, which has been using the courts to replace the America we grew up in, the secular left which is desperately committed to Roe v. Wade and abortion, desperately committed to marriage between same-sex couples becoming legitimized as if they were the same between traditional marriage between a man and a woman, desperately committed to driving God out of public life, and they are suddenly faced with the possibility that we the people are going to take back our authority, that we are going to take back our rights, that we are going to redress the balance. The level of hysteria, I predict, will grow as they come to realize at the American Bar Association and elsewhere that this really is an effort to limit the power of lawyers to redesign America.
Green: Should you become president, is there a crop of attorneys and judges out there that understand history and understand originalism that you would have to choose from, in other words it’s got to be more than just you and Congress, what about good judges?
Gingrich: You start looking at people of the caliber of Robbie George of Princeton, you look at Regent University, you look at Liberty University, you start looking around and realizing there is a whole crop - Vince Haley of University of Virginia graduate who is a deeply, deeply committed Christian who clearly understands these kinds of issues - I think people would be surprised that the Federalist Society has many members who agree that we need a balance of power between the three, not a judicial dictatorship.
Michele Bachmann has made so-called “activist judges” a consistent target of her presidential campaign, dubbing them “black-robed masters” and in last night’s debate she called for Americans to “take the Constitution back” from the courts. Railing against the judiciary is a safe bet for Republicans trying to pander to social conservative voters, but Bachmann’s view of the legal system has come out of her experience as a Religious Right activist and student at Oral Roberts University Law School.
At Oral Roberts, Bachmann worked for Professor John Eidsmoe, and as reported by Ryan Lizza, Eidsmoe taught that when “Biblical law conflicted with American law, Eidsmoe said, O.R.U. students were generally taught that ‘the first thing you should try to do is work through legal means and political means to get it changed.’” Bachmann has consistently trumpeted her work with Eidsmoe, whose legal philosophy has been greatly influenced by Christian Reconstructionist RJ Rushdoony and has urged Christians to promote Biblical law in government.
Today on The Jan Mickelson Show, Bachmann said that her “biblical view of law” molded her view that America needs to disempower the judiciary:
Bachmann: I hold a biblical view of law. If you look at the original constitution and the founding documents of our country, it was clear that the founders wanted to separate power, they wanted to separate the presidency from the Supreme Court and from the Congress, because they thought that the Congress should be the most powerful of all the people’s voices because the people would have the ability to change out the members of the House every two years, originally the state legislatures would chose the Senators and they would have the state’s interest in mind, and the President was meant to execute the laws that Congress would put into place. The courts had a relatively minor function, it was to take current facts and apply it to the law that Congress had passed. So it was really a beautiful system that set up but it’s been distorted since then, and that’s what we need to do, get back to the original view of the Founders because it worked beautifully.
The Senate today unanimously confirmed three judges to serve on federal district courts, leaving over one hundred federal judicial vacancies. The Senate has now confirmed only 31 of President Obama’s federal circuit and district court nominees; 17 nominees who were approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee are still awaiting floor votes. At this time in George W.