Fair and Just Courts

Samuel Rodriguez Gives Trump Chance To 'Redeem The Narrative' With Latinos

Hispanic evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez has a consistent political strategy: position himself as a nonpartisan advocate committed “not to the agenda of the elephant or the donkey but the lamb,” all while trying to convince Hispanic Christians to support socially conservative causes and politicians.

You might think that the immigration-reform-promoting Rodriguez would be in a bind with immigrant-demeaning Trump as the Republican nominee. But even though Rodriguez has been publicly critical of Trump’s rhetoric on immigration, he seems to be positioning himself to encourage Hispanic evangelicals to support the Republican candidate. He has said Trump blew it with his early campaign rhetoric and that the candidate must “redeem the narrative” with Latinos.

This week Bloomberg reported that Trump would be delivering a videotaped message to be shown at this weekend’s meeting of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), which Rodriguez heads, and whose board includes Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver. The pro-immigrant group America’s Voice called on Rodriguez not to let Trump deliver a message to the group given Trump’s “hateful, incendiary rhetoric directed at our communities.”

(Just days ago, Trump attacked NHCLC board member Russell Moore, a leading Southern Baptist official, as a “nasty guy with no heart.” Rodriguez, who co-authored with Moore a Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing Trump’s immigration rhetoric and policies last July, said at the time that “an attack on Russell Moore is an attack on the entire evangelical community.”)

Rodriguez told the Washington Post earlier this week that he would wait to see if the message was “respectful” before deciding whether to show it. Today it is clear that Trump has satisfied Rodriguez, because the NHCLC put out a press release saying the group would show video messages from Trump and from Hillary Clinton on Friday evening.

While Rodriguez says he will not endorse a candidate, it’s hard to take him seriously as some kind of honest broker between the staunchly pro-choice Clinton and the muddled punish-the-woman Trump, who has said he would nominate Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade.  As we recently noted, Rodriguez has said, “I’m going to vote for protecting the Supreme Court from judges that are activists, that run counter to our Judeo-Christian value system.” And he has made it clear that he believes Hispanic Christians must make opposition to abortion, not support for immigrant families, the basis of their vote.

In an interview being promoted by Glenn Beck’s The Blaze today, Rodriguez doubles down on that message, saying it would be “morally reprehensible” for Christians to vote for a candidate who supports Planned Parenthood, saying they would need to “repent.”

“I want to speak to every single African American, Latino, and Anglo Christ follower who believes in biblical orthodoxy — how can we justify supporting anything — be it Republican or Democrat — that in any way, form or shape defends Planned Parenthood?”

Trump has repeatedly praised Planned Parenthood but says he wants to defund the women’s health organization unless they agree to stop providing abortion services.

Rodriguez told The Blaze that it would take “a miracle” for Trump to win over the Latino community, but suggested it could be possible if he apologizes and chooses a Hispanic running mate, mentioning Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez and Ted Cruz.

The supposedly nonpartisan Rodriguez has filmed a video promoting the Republican Party’s faith-outreach project. Only 16 percent of American Latinos identify themselves as evangelical, according to the Pew Research Center, but they are more likely than other Hispanics to vote Republican.

Samuel Rodriguez: Getting Conservative SCOTUS Trumps Immigration Reform

As head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Samuel Rodriguez has worked to get more Latino voters, especially evangelicals, to back conservative candidates, while at the same time trying to get Republicans to stop trash-talking Latino immigrants and back immigration reform.

But it appears that Rodriguez has thrown his lot in with Donald Trump, the very candidate who kicked off his campaign by trash-talking Latino immigrants and calling for mass deportations.

While he may be an outspoken advocate of immigration reform, when push comes to shove, as it has with Trump’s all-but-certain nomination, Rodriguez makes it clear that he is first and foremost a Religious Right culture warrior.

Rodriguez pushes the Religious Right line that religious freedom is threatened in America. There is an attempt to “silence Christians” in America, he says, and Christians cannot sit out elections because “today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity.” He also believes there is a spiritual battle under way to “annihilate” the family.

In the end, his advocacy for immigrant families takes a back seat to his opposition to legal abortion and marriage equality. He said as much at an Evangelicals for Life event in January, telling Latinos that it’s fine to march for immigration reform —“as long as it’s not amnesty or illegal immigration; we need to stop that” — but “we must be above all things pro-life.”

Although Rodriguez manages to cultivate a public image as a nonpartisan bridge-builder, he regularly partners with some of the most extreme voices within the Religious Right. The stridently anti-gay Liberty Counsel serves as NHCLC’s official “legislative and policy arm” and Liberty Counsel President Mat Staver serves as an NHCLC board member and its chief legal counsel. Last fall Rodriguez called Cindy Jacobs, who has predicted a new civil war between God-loving and gay-loving states,  “one of the most anointed voices, prophetic voices in the Kingdom of God.”

In a story last week by right-wing pundit Todd Starnes of Fox News, Rodriguez dismissed talk by some evangelical leaders that Christians should, in the words of pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Of evils choose none.” Rodriguez says not voting is “sacrificing your Christian worldview on the altar of political expediency. It is silly to talk about not voting for either candidate. Every single Christian should vote.”

And while Rodriguez doesn’t mention Trump by name, it is clear that he will not be voting for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders:

“I will vote my Christian values,” Rodriguez said. “It’s life, the family ethos, it’s religious liberty, it’s limited government. That’s the person I’m going to vote for.”

Rodriquez conceded that the 2016 candidates are not his “dream team” – but he’s only concerned about one issue – the Supreme Court.

“I’m going to vote for protecting the Supreme Court from judges that are activists – that run counter to our Judeo-Christian value system.”

This is a very different message than Rodriguez conveyed in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in July, which he co-wrote with Southern Baptist official Russell Moore, where he described Trump as an unchristian, unethical and unelectable politician.

Trump tweeted earlier this week that Moore is “a terrible representative of Evangelicals” and a “nasty guy with no heart!”

Unlike Rodriguez, Moore is standing by his opposition to Trump.

 

Supreme Court Punts in Zubik Case – and Shows Again the Crucial Importance of a Fully-Staffed Supreme Court

The Supreme Court issued a brief unsigned opinion today in the Zubik case, and vacated the conflicting opinions on whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) allows religious nonprofits to effectively take away Affordable Care Act-required contraceptive coverage from their employees. The result is to punt the issue away until the Court again has nine justices, reinforcing again why the Court must have a full complement of justices and why the Supreme Court is such a critical issue in the 2016 elections.

Before the Court in Zubik were a series of cases in which federal appeals courts had ruled that objections by religious colleges and other employers to contraceptive coverage had already been accommodated by the Administration by making clear that the coverage was to be provided by insurers and not involve any employer who expressed a religious objection, so that RFRA was not violated and coverage should continue. The more conservative justices on the Court, including Justice Kennedy, were nonetheless troubled by the claim that the religious employers were still involved in providing the coverage, at least by specifically having to provide notice to object to it. So the Court ordered supplemental briefing in the case on whether it was possible to continue to provide the coverage with no involvement by the employers, other than providing insurance that did not include contraceptive coverage.

In its opinion today, the Court vacated the decisions being considered in Zubik and directed that, on remand, the lower courts should give the government and the objecting employers the opportunity to try to resolve the issue, in light of what the Court characterized as the possibility, as expressed in the supplemental briefs, of ensuring that the coverage can be provided without involving the employers. If needed, the lower courts would then issue opinions on the issue, which could be reviewed by the Supreme Court. Interestingly, the Court also gave the same treatment to the single appellate court opinion that ruled in favor of religious employers and was not included in the Zubik case, vacating that decision as well to be reconsidered again if necessary. The Court specifically made clear that while this process is going forward, women covered by the insurance plans should “receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage," and that the “Government may not impose taxes or penalties” on the religious employers for failing to provide the formal notice of their religious objection which they had complained about in their lawsuits. In other words, no harm should occur to any of the parties while the government and the employers try to work out the problem and litigate it in the lower courts if necessary. A separate concurrence by Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg further emphasized that the decision does not resolve either way the substantive issues, including whether the religious employers do incur a “substantial burden” that triggers RFRA.

While both sides can therefore claim some temporary victory from the Court’s ruling, the clear loser is our American justice system. A crucial legal issue that clearly divides the justices on the Court concerning the application and meaning of RFRA and contraceptive rights remains unresolved. Despite the apparent optimism in the Court’s brief opinion, it seems unlikely that every  religious employer in the country will agree to any accommodation under which its employees will still get contraceptive coverage, so that the issue is very likely to remain unresolved and return to the Supreme Court again. Without nine justices on the Court, it seems clear that the Court will not be able to resolve the issue, just as it could not at present. That makes the issue of filling the current vacancy on the Court, and who will be the president that fills future vacancies on our closely divided Supreme Court, extremely crucial now and in November.

PFAW Foundation

PFAW Releases Spanish-Language Ad Criticizing McCain, Flake for Holding Supreme Court Seat Open for Trump

Today, People For the American Way (PFAW) released a Spanish-language radio ad in Arizona criticizing Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake for refusing to give fair consideration to Judge Merrick Garland, making clear that they’d prefer to have Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump fill the seat. The ad, the first of its kind talking specifically to Latino voters about Trump and the Supreme Court vacancy, will run for a week on Spanish-language radio in Arizona.

PFAW Director of Latinos Vote! and Manager of Political Campaigns Lizet Ocampo stated:

“Donald Trump is a bigot who has called Mexican immigrants rapists, supports mass deportation, and referred to women as ‘pigs’ and ‘dogs.’ Yet Senators McCain and Flake would rather hold the seat open for him to fill than do their job and give fair consideration to an extraordinarily well qualified nominee like Judge Merrick Garland. It’s nothing short of disgraceful.”

Spanish-language ad:

Listen in English:

Script:

Sabemos que la Corte Suprema toma algunas de las decisiones más importantes como la inmigración, el derecho a votar y la salud.

Y estas decisiones afectan a nuestros amigos, a nuestras familias y a nuestra comunidad.

Entonces, ¿Por qué los Senadores McCain y Flake se rehúsan a cumplir con su responsabilidad y bloquean al candidato del presidente Obama?

¿Será porque quieren que sea Donald Trump, la persona que dijo que los inmigrantes mexicanos eran violadores y traficantes de drogas, quién nombre a nuestro siguiente juez de la Corte Suprema?

Al no cumplir con su responsabilidad, nuestros senadores están haciendo el típico juego sucio de los republicanos. ¡Que vergüenza!

McCain y Flake deben confirmar al Juez de la Corte Suprema nominado por Obama; y dejar de hacer lo que les pide Trump.

Este mensaje es pagado por People For the American Way, www.pfaw.org, y no está autorizado por ningún candidato o comité de candidato. People For the American Way es responsable por el contenido de este anuncio. 

English translation:

We know the Supreme Court makes some of the most important decisions like immigration, voting rights, and health care. And these decisions affect our friends, families, and community.

So why are Senators McCain and Flake refusing to do their job – and blocking President Obama's nominee?

Is it because they want to see Donald Trump – the man who called Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers – get to name our next  Supreme Court Justice?!

By not doing their job, our Senators are playing dirty Republican tricks.

What a disgrace!

McCain and Flake need to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee – and stop doing Donald Trump’s bidding.

Paid for by People For the American Way(www.pfaw.org) and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. People For the American Way is responsible for the content of this advertising.
 

Chuck Grassley, The Do-Nothing Chairman

To: Interested Parties
From: Ari Rabin-Havt, Senior Fellow, People for the American Way; Billy Corriher, Director of Research, Legal Progress, Center For American Progress
Date: May 11, 2016
Re: Chuck Grassley, The Do-Nothing Chairman

Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) refusal to hold a hearing on President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court highlights a pattern of inaction apparent throughout his leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Grassley’s refusal to do his job goes well beyond his partisan blockade of a qualified nominee to our nation’s highest court. A complete look at his 16-month tenure as Judiciary Committee chairman reveals a pattern of obstruction in service to partisan interests.

  • Grassley’s committee has confirmed circuit and appellate judges at a glacial pace, especially when compared to a similar period during Senator Patrick Leahy’s chairmanship.
  • The Judiciary Committee, under Grassley’s leadership, has done nothing to strengthen and restore the Voting Rights Act, even though attacks on the right to vote have swept across the country.
  • Partisanship and pressure from the far right have resulted in Grassley dragging his feet instead of conducting the committee’s critical functions. The confirmation of Loretta Lynch to be attorney general, for instance, took longer than any other cabinet appointment since the Eisenhower Administration.  

Under Chuck Grassley Judicial Confirmations Are Proceeding at a Glacial Pace

The responsibilities of a Senate committee chairman extend beyond the hearing room. It is his or her job to guide confirmations through the committee and onto the floor for consideration by the full Senate.

Looking at the data, it becomes obvious that Chuck Grassley’s refusal to do his job goes beyond his Supreme Court obstruction and extends to blocking appellate and district court nominees as well.

According to The Washington Post:

The current Senate’s record is particularly dim on judicial confirmations. Obama has seen 17 lifetime judges confirmed in the past 16 months, compared to 45 for Bush in the same time frame, 40 for Clinton, and a whopping 82 for George H.W. Bush (including Justice Clarence Thomas). [Washington Post, May 5, 2016]

A comparison of Grassley’s tenure under President Obama to Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT), who served as chairman during the last two years of the Bush administration, is striking.

chart 1

By the end of April 2008, Leahy had worked to confirm 45 judges with only 32 nominations remaining before the Senate. Three of these pending nominees had already cleared the committee and four had already received committee hearings. This means that no action had been taken on just 25 nominations.

During the comparable time period between January 2015 and April of this year, Grassley has only managed to confirm 17 nominees, barely a third the number of Patrick Leahy under George W. Bush.

chart 1

Fifty-two of President Obama’s judicial appointments are still pending. Of these, 12 have cleared the committee, and hearings have been held for an additional 6, leaving 33 with no action having been taken.

In the first 16 months of his tenure as Judiciary Committee chairman, Leahy managed to confirm 58% of George W. Bush’s nominees. On the other hand, Grassley has managed to confirm only 25% of Barack Obama’s.

Under Chuck Grassley, the Judiciary Committee Engaged in Unprecedented Obstruction to Slow Confirmation of Attorney General Loretta Lynch

The day Chuck Grassley was sworn in as chairman, President Obama’s nomination of Loretta Lynch was still pending before the Senate. This was after Republicans demanded she not be confirmed during the lame duck session following the 2014 election with control of the chamber due to switch from Democratic to Republican. Confirming the nation’s top law enforcement official should have been a top priority for the committee. Yet it was another 100 days before Lynch would take her place at the Department of Justice.

In comparison, the seven attorneys general prior to Lynch were all confirmed within one month.

chart 1
 [Politifact.com , April 25, 2015]

Lynch cleared the Judiciary Committee at the end of February, more than a month after Grassley took over the committee, an extraordinary amount of time considering the speed with which the previous seven attorneys general were confirmed. As chairman, Grassley was responsible for the floor vote on this confirmation. As in the case of current Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Grassley and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) allowed pure partisanship to stall a critical appointment.

Grassley Willfully Ignoring Voting Discrimination Months Away from a Major Election

The 2016 election will be the first presidential election in more than 50 years without the full strength of the landmark Voting Rights Act to protect against voting discrimination. Nearly three years after the Supreme Court gutted the law in its 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, Grassley has done nothing to restore the VRA – not even schedule a hearing – despite widespread evidence of voters being disenfranchised across the country as new state laws and local election practices make it harder to register, to vote, and to have those votes counted.

Already this year, thousands of primary voters in Arizona, North Carolina and other places that lost protections due to Shelby County have suffered voting discrimination – a canary in the coalmine for what could happen in the November general election. It is the responsibility of the Judiciary Committee to—at the very least—hold hearings on restoring the protections previously guaranteed by this critical law. Since taking over the committee, Chuck Grassley has not held a single hearing on the topic.

This abdication of responsibilities is yet another example of Grassley failing to do his job as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Do-Nothing Chair

Chuck Grassley’s 16 months at the helm of the Senate Judiciary Committee have been marred by partisan games that have led to one of the least productive sessions for the Judiciary Committee in decades. While attention has focused on Grassley and McConnell’s refusal to take action on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, the totality of the committee’s record demonstrates a failure to do its most basic job.

Judicial confirmations have proceeded at an unprecedentedly slow pace. Grassley’s tenure has also been tarnished by the embarrassingly slow confirmation of Loretta Lynch and its failure to address changes to the Voting Rights Act.

Polling indicates voters across the country are tired of Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee putting partisanship above patriotism and failing to do their jobs. The recent obstruction of Merrick Garland is a symptom of a larger problem that lies at the feet of the committee’s chairman, Chuck Grassley.  

 

Tony Perkins' Odd Garland Conspiracy Theory

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins has a new conspiracy theory about the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court:

Despite spending his career on the bench and in the Justice Department, Garland doesn’t have much of an ideological paper trail. As many have pointed out, the D.C. Circuit Court deals primarily with regulatory issues, meaning that Judge Garland’s record is virtually free of cases on abortion, marriage, or religious liberty. And that’s no accident. If President Obama wants to keep up this façade of centrism, he needs someone free of social baggage. But, make no mistake. Garland was carefully vetted. This president is too worried about his activist legacy to put it in the hands of a man who values the very Constitution it defies.

According to Perkins, Garland’s 19 years as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is merely a cover. Perkins’ attack is odd, considering that Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas, and the late Antonin Scalia all served on the D.C. Circuit prior to their nominations to the Supreme Court.

Unsurprisingly, when Roberts was appointed to the court, Perkins had no objection to his previous service on the D.C. Circuit. Instead, a New York Times article referencing Robert’s “limited judicial record” quotes the Family Research Council leader gushing over the nominee. "The president is a man of his word," said Perkins. "He promised to nominate someone along the lines of a Scalia or a Thomas, and that is exactly what he has done."

If anything, Perkins’ questions about Garland’s lack of a paper trail on the issues he particularly cares about should increase his desire for a hearing at which the nominee could answer questions about his philosophy and track record from Republican senators.

If nothing else, this latest argument demonstrates the conservative movement’s inability to find anything in Garland’s record that would suggest he is unqualified to serve on the court.

Defending Roy Moore's Nullification Efforts, Liberty Counsel Shows New Concern For 'Judicial Independence'

Liberty Counsel, a Religious Right legal group that opposes legal equality for LGBT Americans, held a press conference on Wednesday with Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has been waging a campaign of resistance to the Supreme Court’s June 2015 marriage equality ruling.

Moore and his Liberty Counsel lawyers were calling on the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission to dismiss ethical complaints that had been filed against Moore earlier in 2015 after he urged the governor not to comply with a federal court order on marriage equality. Moore, of course, had gotten in trouble before; in 2003 he was removed from his seat on the court when he refused a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he had installed in the rotunda of the judicial building.

People For the American Way Foundation was one of the groups that filed a complaint against Moore last year. The PFAWF complaint, which you can read here, was filed in early 2015, based on actions he took when he began to insert himself into a federal marriage equality case that was not before his court. He accused federal judges across the country of seeking to impose tyranny upon the nation, and he suggested he might not comply with a potential Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality (which came down a few months later). The complaint spells out the Canons of Judicial Ethics that Moore violated, undermining public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. “Like the United States as a whole, Alabama is governed by the rule of law,” the complaint concludes, noting that “the history of the state shows the violent and tragic consequences when that ideal is not met.” The complaint asked that Moore once again be removed from his office.

In defending Moore on Thursday, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver dismissed the complaints as “politically motivated” and warned that they “pose a threat to the doctrine of judicial independence.” Continued Staver, “Judges must be free to exercise their considered judgment without the threat of being attacked by organizations and individuals who wish to misuse the ethical process to further a radical political agenda.”

Staver’s concern for Moore’s judicial independence is touching, if a bit surprising, given that Staver was a cheerleader for Religious Right attacks on Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality. After a political campaign that was successful in unseating three state justices in 2010 retention elections, Staver crowed, “The justices crossed the line when they played the role of a legislator and abandoned judicial restraint.”

Moore also said at Wednesday’s press conference that this was about “judicial independence.” But when right-wing groups were cranking up the outrage machine against Iowa Supreme Court justices, Moore joined in the condemnation, saying that the conservative outcry against the justices would send “a signal all across the nation.”

Edit Memo: Ongoing Obstruction of President Obama’s Judicial Nominees

To: Interested Parties
From: Paul Gordon, Senior Legislative Counsel, People For the American Way
Date: April 26, 2016
Re: Ongoing Obstruction of President Obama’s Judicial Nominees

Although national attention has been focused on the ongoing GOP blockade of President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, commentators should remember that the Republicans’ campaign of obstruction aimed at President Obama’s judicial nominees is nothing new. Since Republicans have taken control of the Senate, the pace at which they’ve chosen to process all judicial nominations has fallen far short of what precedent would dictate.

Failing to confirm judges has never been the norm even when the Senate and the White House are held by different parties. A useful basis of comparison is George W. Bush’s final two years in office, when Democrats took over the Senate after the 2006 midterms. In 2007, the first year as the majority, the Democratic Senate confirmed 40 of President Bush’s circuit and district court nominees (with a total of 68 by the end of 2008). In stark contrast, the McConnell Senate has confirmed only 17 judges during this congress.

The figure below shows the stark difference in the pace of confirmations under today’s Republican-controlled Senate as compared to the Democratic-controlled Senate of Bush’s last two years.

chart 1

Another way of contrasting how seriously Senate Democrats took their job in 2007-2008 versus the attitude of Republicans today is to track the number of vacancies. Judicial vacancies open regularly and predictably, since judges usually announce their intent to retire or go into semi-retirement up to a year in advance. Just to keep the number of vacancies at an even level requires that several new judges be confirmed each month.

At the beginning of 2007, there were 56 circuit and district court vacancies. Throughout the next two years, the number of vacancies generally remained at 50 or fewer, getting as low as 34 in the early fall of 2008. Because an unusually high number of vacancies opened up after Election Day, that number climbed back to 55 by Inauguration Day, but even with that increase, the number of vacancies ended up at about what it had been two years earlier.

Today, in stark contrast, the number of circuit and district court vacancies is climbing, from 40 at the beginning of the year to 74 today, an 85% increase.

chart 2

We see the same thing with judicial emergencies, a formal designation assigned by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts for vacancies where the caseload per judge is so high that it endangers access to justice. Judicial emergencies have skyrocketed from 12 at the beginning of the new congress to 32 as of April 1 of this year*. As the chart below shows, Democrats in the Senate during Bush’s last two years did not allow the number of judicial emergencies to increase in a similar fashion, and in fact the number generally remained steady or decreased during most of those two years.

chart 3

Courts are the infrastructure of justice, just as important to our constitutional rights as roads and bridges are to transportation. Either in spite of this or because of this, Senate Republicans have abused their position in the majority to stymie President Obama’s efforts to put qualified people on our nation’s federal courts. In so doing, they are weakening the entire third branch of the United States government.

 

* - Judicial emergencies are based on caseloads, which are weighted to reflect the wide variations in time and resources generally associated with different types of cases. On April 15, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts list of emergency vacancies began to incorporate a new weighting system adopted a month earlier by the Judicial Conference of the United States. As a result, the number of officially designated judicial emergencies dropped from 34 on April 14 to 28 the next day, a drop that had nothing to do with Senate action.

###

 

Glenn Beck: Grover Norquist Is A Deep-Cover Spy For The Muslim Brotherhood

On his radio program yesterday, as part of his crusade to get right-wing anti-tax activist Grover Norquist removed from the board of the National Rifle Association for supposedly being a front man for the Muslim Brotherhood, Glenn Beck interviewed the Family Research Council's Jerry Boykin, who is a longtime Norquist critic and anti-Islam activist.

Following the interview, Beck literally begged the NRA members in his audience to vote to remove Norquist from the organization's board, warning that this is the last chance to stop him.

"If this works, his empire really falls apart," Beck said. "If it doesn't, no one will ever touch him and his influence will expand and so will the Muslim Brotherhood, at the highest levels."

Beck then likened Norquist to the protagonists of the television show "The Americans," which is about deep-cover KGB spies in America during the Cold War, which he cited to praise the efforts of Joseph McCarthy.

While McCarthy was "wrong in presentation and he was the wrong messenger," Beck said, history as proven "that what McCarthy was saying was true." 

"If you watch that show 'The Americans,' that happened, that's true,' Beck declared. "Grover Norquist is the modern-day version of that KGB handler, if you will, whether he knows it or not. But the infiltration has happened and he's the doorway to it."

AUL: Stall Supreme Court Nominee To 'Roll Back Roe v. Wade'

Anti-choice groups have made no secret of the fact that they are pressuring Senate Republicans to continue their blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, in the hope that a Republican-nominated justice will vote to undo Roe v. Wade.

Americans United for Life, the group that shapes the anti-choice movement’s legal strategy, made this argument explicitly in an email today asking members to pressure their senators to keep up the blockade of Garland.

Clarke Forsythe, the group’s acting president, claims in the email that the “only reason abortion advocates are pushing this nomination is to roll back the pro-life gains in courts and legislatures across the country” and promises that “the right Supreme Court” will roll back Roe.

AUL is one of a number of anti-choice groups, including the Susan B. Anthony List, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, Priests for Life, the clinic protest group Pro-Life Action League and David Daleiden’s attorneys at Life Legal Defense Foundation, who have launched a website targeting Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, urging them to continue to stall Garland’s nomination.

Forsythe writes, under the subject line “You Have the Power to Help Roll Back Roe v. Wade”:

Dear Friend,

Do you believe Roe v. Wade can be rolled back? At Americans United for Life, we know that the answer is YES … with the right Supreme Court.

For more than 40 years, we pro-life Americans have been working to overturn the destructiveness of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the twin cases that brought incredible devastation to mothers and their unborn children, making both vulnerable to the profiteering of a greedy abortion industry. With the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court hangs in the balance today, making it vital that NO appointment to the high court occur until after the voters weigh in on Election Day. You can help make that happen.

Please click here to contact your U.S. Senators, telling them to wait until after the election to deal with the opening on the Supreme Court.

All that AUL has been working for since 1971 is at stake in President Obama’s attempt to put a fifth pro-abortion justice on the Supreme Court. Don't let them crush democracy on the abortion issue for another two or three decades. No president has been more firmly committed to the abortion industry than Barack Obama, making his pick for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland, the wrong choice to be added to the fragile balance in a fractured court.

Please click here to contact your U.S. Senators now.

Judge Garland is President Obama’s pro-abortion pick to tempt some Republicans to act now to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. But it’s important to remember that President Obama, Vice President Biden and even Sen. Chuck Schumer, all urged the Senate to hold the line against Supreme Court picks late in a president’s term. The only reason abortion advocates are pushing this nomination is to roll back the pro-life gains in courts and legislatures across the country.

Please contact your Senators today, asking them to let Americans have a voice in deciding the future of the Supreme Court, through their choice of leadership. Click here to contact them now, and please forward this to friends and family so that we all can have a voice in whether all people are welcomed in life and protected in law.

With so many Justices on the Supreme Court nearing retirement, the time is now to let your Senators know that it matters to you who sits on the nation’s Supreme Court.

Thank you for standing with Americans United for Life at this important time. We can make a difference.

Sincerely,

Clarke Forsythe,
Acting President & Senior Counsel
Americans United for Life

A Sleazy or Principled Approach to Judicial Confirmations?

Several days ago, USA Today reported on some comments made by Senator Patrick Leahy about the Senate GOP’s refusal to consider Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court.  Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley has fallen in line behind the order of his boss, Mitch McConnell, and the demands of far-right extremist groups like the Judicial Crisis Network, who make wildly untrue claims about Judge Garland’s record.  GOP senators’ decision to hide behind those outside attacks and refuse to give Judge Garland a chance to defend himself is “sleazy,” Leahy said.  He also urged Grassley to show some independence from partisan interests, as Leahy did when he chaired the Judiciary Committee in parts of George W. Bush’s presidency.

Conservative Ed Whelan challenged Leahy’s positive characterization of his chairmanship on the National Review website in a piece he called “Patrick Leahy (D-Sleaze).”  Whelan criticized then-Chairman Leahy for not holding hearings on a number of Bush’s nominees.  One might think the committee was letting vacancies pile up around the country: that Leahy was fiddling while the American court system burned.  In fact, at this point in Bush’s last two years, the Democratic-controlled Senate had already confirmed 45 circuit and district court nominees, while the current Senate has confirmed a mere 17.  During the entire two years of the 110th Congress, the Senate confirmed 68 judges, a number that Chuck Grassley and Mitch McConnell show no interest in even trying to match.

In fact, it is Grassley and McConnell who are fiddling.  When the current Congress began, there were 40 circuit and district court vacancies, a number that has increased to 74 due to GOP inaction.  (If you include the Court of International Trade, the increase is from 43 to 78.)  In the same period, judicial emergencies have nearly tripled, jumping from 12 to 34 on April 14 (a change in how the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts weights cases went into effect the next day, affecting the number of emergencies and thereby complicating comparisons after that date).  In contrast, vacancies and emergencies went down in 2007-2008 because Democrats processed judicial nominations in a responsible manner.  Leahy also chaired the committee for 17 months in 2001-2002, during which the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed 100 of Bush’s judicial nominees.  Circuit and district court vacancies went down during that period from 109 to 60.  When it comes to taking seriously their constitutional responsibility to make sure our federal judiciary is sufficiently staffed, the difference between the two parties could hardly be starker.

The contrast is not limited to the confirmation of judicial nominees.  In Bush’s last two years, Sen. Leahy held 22 nominations hearings, including one as late as September 23, 2008 … just a few weeks before the presidential election to replace the term-limited George Bush.  Chairman Grassley has scheduled a confirmation hearing for April 20, the first since January, only the 13th of the current Congress, and he has suggested that he may shut the process down in July.

With 33 circuit and district court nominees in committee, and only five of them having had a hearing (but not until April 20), talk of such an early shutdown is obscene.  Seven of the nominees who have yet to be granted a hearing are circuit court nominees, most of them nominated more than two months ago.  Three of the circuit court nominees already have their “blue slips” from their home state senators.  The fact that this is an election year should not prevent a hearing for these circuit court nominees:  When President Bush nominated Steven Agee to the Fourth Circuit in March of 2008, Sen. Leahy scheduled a hearing seven weeks later, and a committee vote just two weeks after that.

And certainly no one could believably question Leahy’s fairness.  When President Obama took office, Chairman Leahy maintained the same rules and practices he had used with Bush’s nominees.  For instance, as under Bush, he opted to require the “blue slip” approval of both home-state senators before holding a hearing on a nominee, something not in the committee rules but rather a prerogative of the chair.  This led to a number of highly qualified Obama nominees being denied a chance to publicly respond to the often unfair and inaccurate attacks being made against them by GOP senators.  Other times, the Republican senators gave no public reason for their opposition, yet still used Leahy's blue slip  practices  to deny hearings to targeted nominees.  He even allowed Kansas’s GOP senators to change their mind after a hearing and, at their request, did not allow a scheduled committee vote on Tenth Circuit nominee Steve Six to take place.  The committee records are filled with Leahy’s sharp criticism of how qualified nominees were being denied hearings this way, including ones strongly supported by their one Democratic home state senator, including then-Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Nevertheless, he did not change his blue slip practice as he could have done unilaterally.

Whelan also criticizes Senator Leahy as “sleazy” for not getting controversial Fifth Circuit nominee Leslie Southwick confirmed quickly enough and then for opposing his nomination altogether.  As chairman, Sen. Leahy could have simply chosen not to give him a hearing.  In fact, at the confirmation hearing, Sen. Hatch specifically thanked Chairman Leahy for scheduling it over the criticism from “far left groups.”  Giving a nominee an opportunity to address senators’ concerns and defend their record in a public forum is not “sleazy.”

As Sen. Leahy pointed out last week, what’s “sleazy” is the way that the Republican-controlled Senate is mistreating the president’s Supreme Court nominee.  And while well-financed far-right groups are working overtime to keep GOP senators in line, two thirds of Americans are rejecting that position and support a hearing for Chief Judge Garland.  Chairman Grassley would do well to listen to the American people.

PFAW

More Evidence Grassley And McConnell Only Care About The Far Right

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll released Tuesday led to a slew of headlines reflecting the fact that the majority of Americans want the Senate to do its job and begin working to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

“Democrats are winning the Supreme Court fight over Merrick Garland. Big time,” announced the Washington Post

By a 22-point margin (52-30) voters would like to see “the Senate vote on [Justice Scalia's] replacement” this year. When the question was first asked in February, this margin was only a single point (43-42).

Yet Republicans and conservative voters continue to isolate themselves from the rest of the electorate with their intransigence on taking any action on Garland’s nomination.

This is the conundrum for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). They can mollify the radical base of their party or they can do their jobs, consistent with the will of the people. Thus far their choice has been clear.

Grassley once again swore fealty to the radical right on a conference call with the anti-choice organization Susan B. Anthony List on Monday night, promising them “we aren’t going to have a hearing.”

Right now, despite the polling, Republican strategists believe their elected leaders' intransigence serves their own electoral benefit. Josh Holmes, who ran McConnell’s 2014 reelection campaign told the Wall Street Journal, “Any time you are looking at an electorate where you want to ensure the base is motivated to support a candidate, an issue like this helps.” He continued, “by almost any measure that we’ve seen thus far, the voters who fall into that swing category that determine an election just aren’t that interested in the Supreme Court fight.”

Holmes and many Republicans are being misled by the data. Voters want a functional government and elect senators to do a job. They are rightfully repulsed when it isn’t done.

Voters aren’t thinking about the confirmation of Merrick Garland as a fight between liberal and conservative policy outcomes. Instead it is about which party is causing dysfunction in Washington. Republicans are proudly raising their hands to take credit for the chaos, fulfilling the wishes of their base.

However, with polling data trending against them, McConnell and Grassley are putting several of their colleagues in close races in untenable positions. As a greater majority of voters push for action on the nomination, senators in close races are bound to begin to question their leadership’s obstructionist strategy.

Grassley Promises Anti-Choice Activists He'll Hold The Line Against Garland

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, joined a conference call of anti-abortion activists hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List last night to assure them that he would continue to hold the line and refuse to hold a Judiciary Committee hearing on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

Also joining the call were Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who delivered an opening prayer.

Grassley told the activists that when someone asked him for an update on the nomination last week, he said that “an update would suggest that something has changed” and that he still intends to block any nominee until the next president takes office.

He said that preventing “another liberal” from joining the Supreme Court was necessary to keep “even the reasonable restrictions on abortion that have been enacted into law through the democratic process” from being “swept away.”

Grassley cited a recent National Right to Life poll which he said found that “about 80 percent of Americans don’t believe that abortions should be available after the first trimester.” (It was more complicated than that.)

“But we know that justices who embrace the view that the Constitution is a living document don’t share that view that you and I share,” he said. “The American people, through their elected representatives, should be making these policy decisions, not unelected judges. These are life-and-death issues that we’re fighting for. They show just how important this fight over who’s going to fill Scalia’s seat is.”

In response to a question from SBA List president Marjorie Dannefelser, Grassley suggested that news reports characterizing Garland as moderate are a misleading ploy by the media (one that, if he was correct, he himself and some of his Republican colleagues would be in on).

When Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were nominated, he said, “always in these headlines at the time they were nominated, that adjective was the word ‘moderate,’ just like Garland. Well, we know how those four have turned out. So don’t believe what you read in the press about people’s basic philosophy, because they got it all wrong and probably intentionally all wrong.”

When Dannenfelser asked Grassley to respond to the argument that the Senate is neglecting its job by refusing to even consider Garland’s nomination, Grassley repeated his claim that it would actually be a waste of taxpayer money to give Garland a hearing.

“Well, we could have a hearing, we aren’t going to have a hearing, but let’s just suppose we could have a hearing,” he said. “And I know 52 people, at least 52 in the Senate, aren’t going to approve it. So you have a hearing and you spend a lot of taxpayers’ money gearing up for it, you spend a lot of time of members, a lot of research that has to be done by staff, and then it ain’t going to go anyplace.”

“It’s like getting dressed up for the prom but you don’t get to go,” Dannenfelser said.

Tea Party Group Draws Crowd Of Tens To Protest Supreme Court Confirmation

Today, as thousands of people gathered in front of the Supreme Court to voice their support of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, a somewhat smaller crowd organized by Tea Party Patriots held forth against the DAPA/DACA actions and urged the Senate not to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

We counted about 20 people at the Tea Party Patriots event at 11 am, shortly before the event’s speeches were scheduled to begin: 

The heavily outnumbered protesters carried signs saying “#NoHearingsNoVotes,” “#TheDecisionIsOurs,” “#LetThePeopleDecide” and “Let The People Have A Voice On The Future Of The Court,” the message that anti-Garland groups have settled on to make their quest to block hearings on a Supreme Court nomination sound like a populist rallying cry. The sign on a podium labeled Garland “Obama’s Rubber Stamp.”

There was a high ratio of Republican and conservative movement speakers to grassroots activists, asRep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas,Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.,Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and the Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino addressed the small crowd.

Here’s another view of the Tea Party Patriots event:

 

UPDATE: Politico reports:

News concerences sponsored by the Tea Party and FreedomWorks also featured Reps. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), as well as other speakers who unsuccessfully tried to lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and "America the Beautiful." An effort to lead a singalong of the national anthem backfired when the singer forgot the lyrics midway through, drawing jeers.

 

PFAW Hosts Member Telebriefing on the Democracy Awakening

As thousands of activists from around the country head to Washington, DC for the Democracy Awakening, a weekend of marches, rallies, workshops, lobby visits, and – for some – nonviolent civil disobedience, PFAW hosted a member telebriefing Thursday about the upcoming mobilization. Through the Democracy Awakening, Americans are demanding that Congress take action to fix our democracy, from protecting voting rights to getting big money out of politics to giving the president’s Supreme Court nominee fair consideration.

“These are all connected issues,” PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker said on the call. She emphasized that auctioning off democracy “to the highest bidder,” suppressing the vote, or obstructing justice through Republican senators’ “absurd and totally indefensible” position that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee shouldn’t be given fair consideration are all threats to our democracy.

“We have to take back the engines of our government for the American people,” Baker said.

PFAW Government By the People Campaign Manager Rio Tazewell outlined the schedule for the weekend and noted that even people who can’t travel to DC can still take action in their own towns through letters to the editor, contacting elected representatives, and taking action on social media.

You can listen to the full telebriefing below, and visit www.democracyawakening.org for more information:

PFAW

Edit Memo: Merrick Garland, The Supreme Court and Money in Politics

To: Interested Parties
From: Paul Gordon, Senior Legislative Counsel, People For the American Way
Date: April 15, 2016
Re: Merrick Garland, The Supreme Court and Money in Politics

Perhaps no area of American constitutional law has seen greater upheaval by the Supreme Court in the past decade than the issue of money in politics. Similarly, perhaps no set of Court rulings has had a more significant – or more damaging – effect on the very nature of our nation’s electoral democracy. While a narrow 5-4 majority on the Roberts-Alito Court has become infamous for bending the law and twisting logic in order to rule in favor of corporate and other powerful interests in a variety of contexts, its decision in Citizens United stands out and has generated a national movement to undo it.

Hence, there is great interest in how President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee has approached these issues. This report primarily analyzes D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland’s record on cases involving money in politics. It also looks at how he has ruled in non-political contexts when corporate or other interests have sought to use the First Amendment as a way to evade standard business regulations.

The cases show that Judge Garland bases his rulings not on theory and ideology, but instead on how the world really works. He shows deep respect for the legitimacy of government regulation to protect the public interest, and he is careful not to address issues that do not need to be addressed. He does not use the bench as a platform to impose his personal ideology onto the law and the American people. Although it is difficult to predict precisely how a judicial nominee will rule, having Judge Garland on the Supreme Court in the seat formerly occupied by Justice Scalia makes it significantly more likely that the Supreme Court will be more receptive to upholding legislation at the state and federal level to deal with the serious problem of money and politics.

Judge Garland’s Record on Money In Politics

Judge Garland has written or joined a number of decisions on money and politics. In his nearly two decades on the bench, perhaps the most important opinion on money in politics that Judge Garland has authored is one from just last year called Wagner v. FEC (2015). Judge Garland wrote a carefully considered opinion upholding a 75 year old law prohibiting federal contractors from contributing money to federal candidates, parties, or committees.

In a post-Citizens United and post-McCutcheon world, it seems that few if any reasonable limits on election contributions or spending are safe from attack. But the D.C. Circuit upheld the “pay to play” law in an opinion that was starkly different from Citizens United in its focus on how the real world works and its respect for Congress’s ability to craft appropriate campaign finance laws that are responsive to serious problems.

The plaintiffs were three individuals who were federal contractors claiming the ban violated their First Amendment rights. Working as he had to within the conservative Roberts Court’s absurdly narrow definition of “corruption,” Judge Garland drafted a carefully structured opinion showing how the ban serves two important governmental interests: (1) preventing real and perceived corruption; and (2) protecting merit-based government administration.

He went out of his way to take the reader (and his fellow judges) on a detailed historical tour of the corruption caused by money from contractors and those similarly situated that has too often infected our political system. For page after page after page in the opinion, Judge Garland presented one example after another, clearly showing the serious problems that motivated Congress to adopt the ban. As Garland wrote, “this historical pedigree is significant,” because it leads to greater judicial deference to congressional judgments. But rather than stop there, he continued the historical tour, this time based on the experiences of a number of states. He accurately described these as “an impressive, if dismaying, account of pay-to-play contracting scandals.”

When the contractors argued that the modern formalized system of competitive bidding makes it immune from political influence, Judge Garland did not accept that on faith. He looked at how the system actually works, including how political appointees can influence the decisions of independent contract officers, and how members of Congress can get involved in the process.

Judge Garland’s factual presentation in Wagner was so thorough and his subsequent legal reasoning so persuasive that his opinion was joined by every single one of the 11 active judges on the D.C. Circuit, a remarkable feat for such an important case in an area of the law that has seen tremendous change in the past few years. Rather than close his eyes to how the political world really works, he wrote an opinion strongly endorsing the authority of Congress to adopt the contractor contribution ban.

In addition to attacks on campaign contribution limits, the past few years have also seen attacks on disclosing where campaign-related money is coming from. Opponents paint a picture suggesting that disclosure leads to retribution by those who disagree with them. While Judge Garland has not written any major opinions in cases involving constitutional challenges to election spending disclosures, he did write one on lobbying disclosures, where the concerns were similar and where the court upheld disclosure requirements.

In National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) v. Taylor (2009), NAM challenged revised federal lobbying disclosure requirements as violating the First Amendment. Congressional lobbyists have long had to disclose who they are being paid to lobby for and the specific issues they are lobbying about. Under the old law, when they were hired by a coalition or association, they only had to report that entity as their client, not its constituent members. That changed in 2007, when Congress amended the law to give the public a better idea of who was actually behind the large sums of money spent to shape our nation’s laws. Lobbyists for such an association would now have to report not just the entity as the client, but also any member of that entity that spent over a certain amount and that had a major role in planning, supervising, or controlling the lobbying activities.

NAM claimed that the disclosure requirement would chill the participation of its members in debate over public policy, out of fear for the consequences if their identities became known. Judge Garland wrote the panel opinion rejecting the claim, with an opening that was short and to the point:

More than fifty years ago, the Supreme Court held that the public disclosure of "who is being hired, who is putting up the money, and how much" they are spending to influence legislation is "a vital national interest." United States v. Harriss, 347 U.S. 612, 625-26, 74 S. Ct. 808, 98 L. Ed. 989 (1954). Today, we consider a constitutional challenge to Congress' latest effort to ensure greater transparency, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. Because nothing has transpired in the last half century to suggest that the national interest in public disclosure of lobbying information is any less vital than it was when the Supreme Court first considered the issue, we reject that challenge.

With regard to supposedly chilled speech, Judge Garland pointed out that NAM had not presented any evidence that it had suffered from any sort of violence or harassment due to its own, long-disclosed lobbying activities. He also noted that even though NAM’s website publicly lists more than 250 member organizations, there was no evidence of injury to any of them due to NAM’s lobbying.

He also made the tie to election campaign contribution disclosures explicit:

[T]he risks that NAM claims its members would suffer if their participation in controversial lobbying were revealed are no different from those suffered by any organization that employs or hires lobbyists itself, and little different from those suffered by any individual who contributes to a candidate or political party. If that kind of risk rendered [the law] unconstitutional, it would invalidate most compelled lobbying disclosures in contravention of Harriss, and most compelled campaign finance disclosures in contravention of Buckley.

Importantly, Judge Garland wrote for a unanimous panel that also included judges nominated by Presidents Reagan (Douglas Ginsburg) and George H.W. Bush (Karen Henderson).

Judge Garland has also been part of money-in-politics cases where he didn’t write the opinion (or a separate concurrence or dissent). An important one was Shays v. FEC (2008), where he was part of a unanimous panel rejecting FEC regulations as not strong enough to be consistent with the text and purpose of the 2002 McCain-Feingold law (more formally known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, or BCRA). The opinion was authored by Judge David Tatel (a Clinton nominee) and joined by Garland and Judge Thomas Griffith (a Bush-43 nominee).

Three regulations were being challenged. The first was the FEC’s test of what advertisements count as “coordinated communications,” through which candidates and outside spending groups would be evading contribution limits and other restrictions. The panel upheld part of the definition but rejected other parts, concluding that the rule actually “provide[d] a clear roadmap” for using soft money in federal elections in direct contradiction to the law’s purpose.

The second challenge was to the FEC’s definitions of “get out the vote activities” and “voter registration activities,” which the McCain-Feingold law prohibited state parties from using “soft money” to pay for. The court struck down the FEC’s definition as having enormous loopholes that would let state parties easily evade the restriction. For instance, the agency’s definitions limited VR (voter registration) and GOTV (get out the vote) activities to efforts aimed at individuals, and therefore did not count mass mailings or robocalls. The definitions also did not count actively encouraging someone to register or to vote as VR or GOTV unless the party actually assisted them to do so.

The third challenged rule let federal candidates solicit soft money at state party fundraisers, which the panel found to be in direct contradiction to the part of the statute prohibiting just that.

This case – one of statutory interpretation rather than of constitutional law – suggests that Judge Garland takes seriously the congressional intent behind laws regulating money in politics. This was actually the second time that these rules implementing McCain-Feingold had been rejected by the D.C. Circuit (Judge Garland was not on the panel in that earlier stage). So it is perhaps with a hint of impatience that the panel wrote:

We remand these regulations in the hope that, as the nation enters the thick of the fourth election cycle since BCRA's passage, the Commission will issue regulations consistent with the Act's text and purpose.

One important decision weakening restrictions on money in politics that Judge Garland joined but didn’t author was SpeechNow.org v. FEC (2010), which is often credited or blamed for the creation of super-PACs. In this case, the court, acting en banc, struck down congressional limits on contributions to entities (like SpeechNow) that make independent expenditures to expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates running for federal office, but do not make direct contributions to candidates or parties.

The court issued its ruling just a few weeks after Citizens United. That timing is important, because every judge on the D.C. Circuit regardless of ideology agreed that the changes wrought by that seminal Supreme Court case mandated the result in SpeechNow. Citizens United stated that, as a matter of law, independent expenditures do not corrupt or create the appearance of corruption (which the Roberts-Alito Court defines extremely narrowly); and the ruling reaffirmed the Court’s misguided view that fighting corruption or its appearance is the only reason Congress may set contribution limits. With these propositions as binding legal precedent, the D.C. Circuit unanimously agreed that contributions to groups that make only independent expenditures also cannot corrupt or create the appearance of corruption. In other words, the federal government has no anti-corruption interest at all (the only interest the Court recognizes) to counterbalance what the Court characterizes as a limitation on First Amendment rights.

Every judge, including Garland, joined the opinion, which was authored by Judge David Sentelle. SpeechNow is a case that tells us much more about the Justices on the Supreme Court than it does about any judge on the D.C. Circuit. In fact, it tells us very little about the views of Judge Garland or any of the other judges on the appellate court, other than that they faithfully obeyed the recent and binding precedent in Citizens United.

Not all cases involving money in politics get decided on the merits; sometimes the court rules that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue. Judge Garland generally agrees with his colleagues when this happens, but he tends to be very careful in how he approaches the issue. For instance, he concurred in the judgment of the panel decision in a 2007 case called Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington v. FEC. His fellow judges go on for several pages providing several reasons for finding that CREW lacks standing. In contrast, Judge Garland’s concurrence states in its entirety:

I agree with the court that there is no meaningful distinction between this case and Common Cause v. FEC, 323 U.S. App. D.C. 359, 108 F.3d 413 (D.C. Cir. 1997), and on that ground conclude that CREW lacks standing to litigate its challenge to the Commission's decision.

He had a similarly short concurrence on standing in an earlier case called Wertheimer v. FEC (2001). By basing his judgments on as narrow a basis as possible, Judge Garland avoided addressing issues he felt did not need to be addressed. In an era when conservative judges are increasingly closing the courthouse door to Americans whose rights have been violated, Judge Garland seems to place a priority on not closing any doors unnecessarily, and on avoiding needlessly or unintentionally laying the groundwork for future restrictions on standing. This is of great importance across all areas of the law, including money in politics.1

Judge Garland’s Record on Commercial and Corporate Speech

Related to the analysis of Judge Garland’s approach to money in politics issues is his record on the D.C. Circuit with respect to First Amendment protections accorded to commercial and other corporate speech. These interests have played an important role both in the Supreme Court’s analysis of money in politics issues and in its analysis of corporate claims of First Amendment bars to regulations promulgated to protect the public interest.

As on other legal issues, Garland’s opinions and votes demonstrate a respect for precedent and a careful analysis of the facts and the law with respect to claims that government regulation impedes corporations’ First Amendment rights. Importantly, in several cases, he has rejected efforts to expand constitutional protection for commercial and corporate speech beyond recognized limits. And he has joined opinions upholding government requirements that corporations affirmatively disclose certain information despite their claims that this constituted impermissible compelled speech.

In perhaps the most important such case, Judge Garland joined both the panel opinion and the subsequent opinion by the full D.C. Circuit upholding government requirements that corporations disclose information of importance to consumers who want to “buy American” or who are concerned about food safety. Specifically, in American Meat Institute v. USDA (2014), the court in that case upheld an Agriculture Department requirement that companies disclose country-of-origin information for certain meat products, rejecting the claim that the requirement constituted improper compelled speech prohibited by the First Amendment. The court explained that under its interpretation of Supreme Court precedent, a deferential standard of review applied because a corporate speaker’s interest in opposing the forced disclosure of factual information is minimal. The rule was justified, the court explained, by the government’s interest in consumers receiving information to help them make informed purchasing decisions (e.g. avoiding purchases of meat products from countries with food-borne illnesses).

This case is particularly important because the opinion of the full circuit court overruled earlier panel rulings making it much easier for corporations to challenge agency regulations as unconstitutional “compelled speech.” Panels had earlier upheld challenges to graphic cigarette warnings, disclosure requirements with respect to conflict minerals, and requirements that employers put up posters spelling out their employees’ legal rights.

Judge Garland has joined several other opinions largely upholding government regulation of commercial speech, although invalidating several restrictions that were not justified under existing precedent. In POM Wonderful LLC v. FTC (2015), Garland joined a unanimous opinion that largely upheld a Federal Trade Commission finding that a company’s advertising claims that daily consumption of certain beverages would produce specific health benefits were false and misleading, based on careful analysis of the relevant facts and controlling Supreme Court precedent on commercial speech, particularly Central Hudson Gas & Elec. Co. v. Public Serv. Comm.(1980) . But the panel, including Garland, ruled that the FTC went too far under Central Hudson in requiring that each future disease-related representation by POM Wonderful would have to be justified by two randomized and controlled human clinical trials, when one would do. (The company lost its argument that none should be required). In TransUnion LLC v. FTC (2002), he joined a unanimous decision upholding an FTC requirement restricting credit reporting businesses’ ability to disclose and reuse consumer financial information. The panel rejected the company’s claim that the consumer privacy regulation violated its First Amendment free speech rights.

In Pearson v. Shalala (1999),  Garland joined a unanimous opinion rejecting a U.S. Food and Drug Administration decision prohibiting dietary supplement marketers from making particular health claims that were not supported by significant scientific agreement. Importantly, the FDA did not believe that the supplements at issue were in any way harmful to the public, so public health was not an issue. The FDA also was not contending that the health benefit claims were definitely false, but that they weren’t supported by the science, and that consumers could be misled into thinking otherwise. The panel cited precedent where the Supreme Court ruled that requiring advertisers to include disclaimers to potentially misleading statements was constitutionally preferable to prohibiting the statements altogether. In an opinion written by Judge Laurence Silberman and joined by Garland and Judge Patricia Wald, the panel ruled that the agency’s outright prohibition of the insufficiently supported health claims violated the First Amendment, since there were less restrictive alternatives available (such as a disclosure that the claim has not been approved by the FDA).

In several additional cases, Judge Garland has written or joined opinions rejecting efforts to expand the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee into a tool to evade federal agencies’ standard regulations or enforcement actions. For example, Garland wrote the unanimous opinion in Trudeau v. FTC (2006) rejecting a lawsuit against the FTC for issuing an allegedly misleading press release about the settlement of a false advertising case, commenting that the First Amendment did not give the plaintiff “the right to take a red pencil to the language of the FTC’s press release.” See also Grid Radio v. FCC (2002) (joining a unanimous ruling rejecting the claim that the First Amendment protects a right to broadcast low-power radio without a license); Tribune Company v. FCC (1998) (joining a unanimous opinion upholding an FCC rule limiting ownership of a newspaper and television station by the same owner in the same market and explaining that the First Amendment does not give the newspaper owner an absolute right to broadcast speech).

Conclusion

President Obama has selected a highly qualified judge to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court. In the area of money in politics and related areas, Judge Garland is not an ideologue who seeks to use the federal bench as a political weapon to empower those who are already powerful and to game our democratic system in favor of the wealthy and powerful. He would be a positive addition to the Supreme Court, including with respect to money and politics.

 

 

 

1. Judge Garland also recently wrote the opinion for a unanimous panel ruling that former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig had unlawfully used campaign funds to pay for his personal legal efforts to withdraw his guilty plea regarding an embarrassing incident in a Minneapolis – St. Paul airport bathroom. Joining Judge Garland in this unsurprising 2016 ruling in FEC v. Craig for U.S. Senate were Judges Griffith and Sentelle.

Who Is Chuck Grassley Listening To?

Despite holding a “friendly” meeting with Merrick Garland this morning, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley remains adamant that he will not hold hearings on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

On the ground in Grassley’s home state of Iowa, a clear rift is being exposed between those who are encouraging Grassley’s continued intransigence and the constituents who are calling for their senator to do his job.

Notably this week, Keith Uhl, a lawyer in Des Moines who helped manage Grassley’s first campaign for the Senate, asked his former boss to proceed with the normal course of events for a Supreme Court appointments and hold hearing and a vote on the president’s nominee.

One the other hand, the anti-gay head of the Family Leader, Bob Vander Plaats, wrote an op-ed in the Des Moines Register thanking Grassley for not acting on Garland’s nomination and for “advising that the people need to speak before any further appointments are constitutionally confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States."

For the moment Grassley has made his choice, making his bed with a radical right-wing demagogue. Vander Plaats previously advocated that Congress defund courts whose judges rule in favor of marriage equality. He warned that God might not bless America because a Wiccan led a prayer at the Iowa state capitol. Vander Plaat also praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for stating, “don’t bring this homosexual propaganda into my country for the Olympics.” Vander Plaats also has compared a gay pride event to the Boston Marathon bombing.

Grassley, who once lamented that Democrats were siding with their base over the wishes of the American people, has made the decision that the support of Bob Vander Plaats and other conservative movement figures is more important than fulfilling his constitutional duties.

The difference could not be illustrated more starkly: a former campaign manager asking his boss to do the job he helped elect him to do, versus a radical conservative who would like to see judges’ salaries subject to whether they issue decisions he agrees with.

Grassley has clearly made the wrong choice.

Sorry You Missed Sen. Johnson’s Party!

Milwaukee, WI – To celebrate Sen. Johnson’s birthday, Wisconsin activists with People For the American Way, Organizing for Action, Voces de la Frontera, One Wisconsin Now, and Emerge Wisconsin gathered at Sen. Johnson’s Milwaukee office to throw him a birthday party – and send the message that while everyone, even Sen. Johnson, deserves a great birthday party, it’s time for him to end his partisan obstruction and give fair consideration to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

Activists tried to deliver Sen. Johnson and his staff a birthday cake with the message, “Happy Birthday Ron Johnson! Now, #DoYourJob” (pictures are below and attached). Unfortunately, Sen. Johnson and his staff didn’t choose to join in the celebration.

PFAW Regional Political Coordinator Scott Foval stated:

“We hoped to celebrate our senator’s birthday with him, but it seems like just as he doesn’t have time to do his job and give fair consideration to Supreme Court nominee Judge Garland, he doesn’t have time to enjoy some delicious cake with his constituents!

“Now that the party’s over, it’s high time for Sen. Johnson to follow the Constitution and push for hearings and a vote for Judge Garland.”

Pictures from today’s birthday party:

  

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If Republicans Get Their Wish On The Supreme Court, What Would Trump Or Cruz Do?

By Miranda Blue, Elliot Mincberg and Brian Tashman

Republicans in the Senate, pushed by outside conservative interest groups, are promising to block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, and arguing that the next president should fill the current vacancy, in the hope that a Republican president will name a conservative ideologue to the bench.

Even if the Senate does confirm Garland, the next president will likely be charged with nominating at least one person to the Supreme Court, and possibly more. Since it looks like either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will win the Republican presidential nomination, looking at both men’s past statements gives us an idea of the kind of justices that Republicans are hoping for.

Trump and Cruz have both signaled that they would appease their base by nominating justices who would shift the court far to the right. Cruz has lamented that some justices nominated by Republican presidents have strayed from the party line on issues like abortion rights and has vowed that he would appoint “rock-ribbed conservatives” who have a “long paper trail” to demonstrate their “conservative” bona fides.

Trump, dogged by worries among movement conservatives that he would betray them when it comes to Supreme Court nominations, has promised to pick any Supreme Court nominees off a list he develops in partnership with the conservative Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.

Both candidates have indicated that they would nominate judges who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark abortion rights and marriage equality decisions. Trump, although he appears not to understand the central legal issue of Roe, has said that the decision “can be changed” through the right judicial nominations since “you know, things are put there and are passed but they can be unpassed with time.” Cruz has warned that unless a true conservative like him picks the next justice, the Supreme Court will soon be “mandating unlimited abortion.” Trump has said that Obergefell was wrongly decided, while Cruz has called the decision “fundamentally illegitimate” and said it can be ignored by the president.

Cruz has made the future of the court a centerpiece of his campaign, while Trump may not actually understand how the Supreme Court works. But both have made clear that as president they would work to shift the court even farther to the right on the issues important to social conservatives and to the corporate Right.

What would a court shaped by a President Trump or a President Cruz look like? Looking at a few of the possible judicial nominees whose names have been dropped by candidates or who have been recommended by the Heritage Foundation, we can get an idea of the kind of ideological conservatives whom Republicans are hoping to put on the bench.

William H. Pryor

One possible Supreme Court nominee whom Trump has specifically praised is William H. Pryor, selected by President George W. Bush to be on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Formerly Alabama’s attorney general, Pryor has a history of extreme right-wing activism, severely criticizing not just women’s right to choose under Roe v. Wade but even the constitutionality of the New Deal.

Pryor has called Roe the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.” He has claimed that with the New Deal and other measures, the U.S. has “strayed too far in the expansion of the federal government,” and asserted that it “should not be in the business of public education nor the control of street crime.” As a judge, he has helped uphold a restrictive Georgia voter ID law and joined just one other judge on the 11th Circuit in claiming that “racially disparate effects” should not be enough to prove a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, even though the Supreme Court has ruled precisely the opposite.

Pryor came first on a wish list of Supreme Court picks that the Heritage Foundation published shortly after Trump promised to consult them before naming justices.

Diane Sykes

Trump has also repeatedly named Diane Sykes, a Seventh Circuit federal appeals court judge appointed by President George W. Bush, as a potential Supreme Court nominee. Sykes, who previously served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and a trial court, has also won high praise from the Heritage Foundation and from right-wing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

In a series of dissents, Sykes has argued in favor of big business and against consumers and discrimination victims, including cases where she tried to limit corporate liability for product defects and overturn a $1 million damages award, to protect a corporation from having to defend against an employee’s claim of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to reverse a $3.5 million bad faith judgment in favor of a Lutheran church against its insurance company.

She showed her anti-reproductive-choice views in providing a lenient sentence to two anti-abortion protesters who had to be forcibly removed from blocking the entrance to a Milwaukee abortion clinic and had previously been arrested 100 times for such offenses; Sykes nevertheless praised them for their “fine character” and expressed “respect” for the “ultimate goals” the blockade “sought to achieve.”

She asserted in dissent that a jury verdict against a criminal defendant should have been upheld even though there was extensive evidence that one of the jurors did not understand English (including a statement from the juror himself), which disqualified him from serving on a jury under Wisconsin law; that a prosecutor should be immune from a claim that he fabricated false evidence that wrongly convicted a man for 17 years; and that a conviction under federal law against someone convicted of domestic violence for possessing firearms should be reversed and that the law itself could well be unconstitutional, in disagreement with all 10 other judges on the court of appeals. She voted in favor of a Wisconsin voter ID law and of a claim by a student group that it should receive state funding and recognition despite its violation of a university rule prohibiting against discrimination based on sexual orientation, an issue on which the Supreme Court reached exactly the opposite conclusion several years later.

Steven Colloton

The third name on Heritage’s list of possible Supreme Court nominees is Judge Steven Colloton, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, after previous service for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and as a U.S. attorney.

Colloton has been at the forefront of a number of troubling Eighth Circuit rulings, including writing decisions that reversed an $8.1 million award to whistleblowers who helped bring a defective pricing and kickback claim against a large corporation and a nearly $19 million class action judgment against Tyson Foods for violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. He also joined a ruling making the Eighth Circuit the only appellate court in the country that found that the Obama administration’s efforts to accommodate religious universities and other religious nonprofit objectors to the provision of contraceptive coverage under the ACA was insufficient, an issue now being considered by the Supreme Court.

Even more troubling, Colloton has dissented from a number of Eighth Circuit rulings that have upheld the rights of employees, consumers and others against big business and government agencies. He dissented from a decision giving African-American shoppers the opportunity to prove discrimination claims against a large department store, and then saw his view prevail by one vote when the full Eighth Circuit reheard the case. In another case, he dissented from a decision finding that a city had violated the Voting Rights Act by improperly diluting the voting strength of Native Americans.

Colloton dissented from rulings that gave individuals a chance to prove claims of use of excessive force and, in one case, that a city’s policy to use police dogs to bite and hold suspects without any warning was unconstitutional. In three separate cases, he dissented from decisions that employees should at least get the chance to prove in court that their employers retaliated against them for filing sex harassment, age discrimination, or other discrimination claims. In two more decisions, he argued in dissent that public employees should not have the opportunity to prove that they were retaliated against for speaking out in violation of their First Amendment rights. Yet he also claimed in a dissent that the First Amendment rights of a candidate for state supreme court justice were violated by a state judicial code of conduct restricting solicitation and other campaign activity in order to promote judicial impartiality and ethical conduct by judges. Even the conservative Roberts Court that decided the Citizens United case has agreed that these concerns justify solicitation restrictions in state supreme court elections.

Mike Lee

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is Cruz’s closest ally in the Senate and Cruz has said that Lee “would look good” on the Supreme Court. Lee also made the Heritage Foundation’s shortlist of potential Supreme Court justices.

Lee is a fervent “tenther,” someone who believes the 10th Amendment to the Constitution radically restricts the authority of the federal government. As Jeffrey Rosen wrote in the New York Times Magazine in 2010, “Lee offered glimpses of a truly radical vision of the U.S. Constitution, one that sees the document as divinely inspired and views much of what the federal government currently does as unconstitutional.” Among the areas that Lee has suggested it is unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:

  • Social Security,
  • Medicare and Medicaid,
  • child labor laws,
  • food safety,
  • disaster relief,
  • food stamps,
  • the Violence Against Women Act,
  • and, of course, the Affordable Care Act.

Lee has criticized the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion rights and marriage equality, calling Roe v. Wade an “unconscionable decision” that “defied the spirit and the letter” of the Constitution and responding to Obergefell by introducing a measure that would protect anti-LGBT discrimination.

Ted Cruz

While we don’t expect Cruz to name himself to the Supreme Court, as recently as December Trump was receptive to the idea of extending an olive branch to his main Republican presidential rival in the form of a Supreme Court nomination.

A Justice Cruz would certainly align with Trump’s stated priorities of reversing the Obergefell marriage equality decision and making sure Roe v. Wade is “unpassed.” Cruz, who served as the solicitor general of Texas before his election to the U.S. Senate, has gone so far as to call for the U.S. government to defy Obergefell and to claim that Congress could ban abortion without overturning Roe. Before running for the Senate, Cruz proposed an unconstitutional plan to nullify the Affordable Care Act; last year, he said that a Supreme Court ruling rejecting a clearly meritless challenge to the ACA was the “lawless” work of “rogue justices.” Cruz is known for having politicized the Texas solicitor general’s office, filing dozens of Supreme Court amicus briefs defending conservative positions on hot-button issues such as gun rights and abortion. On the campaign trail, he frequently boasts of his work as an attorney fighting church-state separation.

If Cruz were to become a Supreme Court justice, however, we wonder if he would stick with his idea of subjecting justices to retention elections.

This post has been updated to clarify the circumstances of a case in which Sykes asserted in a dissent that a jury verdict should have been upheld despite evidence that one juror was disqualified from serving.

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