Fair and Just Courts

What Would It Look Like If Ted Cruz Put His Pal Mike Lee on the Supreme Court?

Back in December, Kyle reported that Glenn Beck, who believes Ted Cruz is anointed by God to be president, suggested that a President Cruz should nominate Utah Sen. Mike Lee to the Supreme Court. This weekend, while campaigning in Utah, Cruz himself floated the prospect, saying Lee “would look good” on the court.

“Good” is not really the right word. “Terrifying” is more like it.

Lee, who calls Cruz his “best friend at work,” has perhaps the most extreme view of the Constitution of anyone in the Senate. Lee is a fervent “tenther,” someone who believes the Tenth 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.”

Lee dismisses Supreme Court rulings upholding a women’s right to abortion. He called the court’s marriage equality ruling a “breathtaking presumption of power.” People For the American Way noted in a 2010 report that Lee “has denounced as ‘domestic enemies’ those who disagree with his radically limited view” of the Constitution.

Here are a few things that Sen. Mike Lee believes are unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:

This list helps explain why right-wing law professor Jonathan Adler, a force behind the King v. Burwell challenge to the Affordable Care Act, has also suggested that the next Republican president should put Lee on the court.

For an ardent self-described constitutionalist, Lee has a lot of problems with the Constitution as amended over the years and as interpreted by the Supreme Court. Lee published a book last year called “Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America's Founding Document.” He believes the 16th amendment, allowing the federal government to collect income taxes, should be repealed, leaving it to the states to determine how they would tax their own citizens to pay for the extremely limited federal government that would fit his vision of the constitution. He also thinks the 17th Amendment was a mistake and thinks the power to elect U.S. senators should be taken away from voters and returned to state legislatures. He also wants to "clarify" the 14th Amendment through legislation to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. to parents who are not citizens or legal residents and wants to amend the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget and to impose congressional term limits. He supports a campaign by some right-wing activists for state legislators to convene an “Article V” convention for the purpose of amending the Constitution.

As a Senate candidate he said he would like to abolish the federal Departments of Energy and Education, dismantle the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and phase out Social Security altogether. As a senator, Lee orchestrated shutting down the government in an effort to defund Obamacare, even though Cruz took most of the blame for it.

Cruz and Lee share a sort of gleeful pride in playing the outsiders who have contempt for “the establishment.” Lee is reportedly the guy who suggested that Cruz run for Senate; he was among those who endorsed Cruz in his long-shot primary for his Senate seat. This month, he became the first of Cruz’s Senate colleagues to endorse his presidential run.

Meet President Obama's Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland

On March 16, President Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to fill the vacant seat on the US Supreme Court. His background and record, and the bipartisan acclaim he has previously received, make clear that he is an extremely well qualified jurist who would ably serve as a Supreme Court justice, and that there is absolutely no basis but pure politics for the refusal of most Republican senators to even consider his nomination.

Garland, 63, was born in Chicago. His father ran a small advertising firm out of the family’s home and his mother coordinated volunteer services for Chicago’s Council for Jewish Elderly. His grandparents were refugees from anti-semitism in Russia. After graduating with honors from Harvard College and Law School, Garland went on to clerk for appellate court judge Henry Friendly and noted Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. He then worked briefly as special assistant to Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti during the Carter Administration and then as an associate and a partner at the Washington law firm of Arnold & Porter, where he specialized in corporate litigation. In 1989 he became an Assistant US Attorney in Washington and, after a brief return to Arnold & Porter, joined the Clinton Administration as deputy assistant attorney general in the criminal division of the Justice Department and then as principal assistant deputy attorney general. In that capacity, he supervised the investigation and prosecution of a number of key domestic terrorism cases, including the Oklahoma City bombing and the Unabomber case.

Garland became a judge on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 1997, winning bipartisan praise from lawyers, judges, and senators ranging from Edward Kennedy to Orrin Hatch. During most of the 19 years he has been on the bench, Garland has also tutored poor children at a DC elementary school. He became chief judge in 2013.

Garland has continued to win bipartisan and both liberal and conservative praise during his service on the court of appeals. Most of his opinions are for unanimous three-judge panels, bringing together both conservative and liberal judges. As now-Chief Justice Roberts has commented, however, when Judge Garland disagrees with you as a judge, “you know you’re in a difficult area.” (In the particular case Roberts was referring to, Garland dissented from a ruling by Roberts that limited the ability of whistleblowers to bring lawsuits to vindicate fraud against the government.) Garland is a clear and careful writer, who is appropriately deferential to Congressional statutes, agency rules, and past precedent. Although he has a reputation for tending to favor the government in criminal law and terrorism cases, he has not hesitated to rule against the government where it oversteps its authority in such matters. For example, he ruled in one case (In re Sealed Case) that a lower court made a mistake and had to order the prosecution to look for and disclose to a defendant any evidence that would tend to show innocence. In another (Parhart v Gates), he ruled that the Combatant Status Review tribunal had improperly relied on hearsay evidence to indefinitely detain someone as an enemy combatant. He has a generally positive record in such areas as labor law, environmental law, and individual civil rights. Overall, Garland has more federal court experience than any Supreme Court nominee in history.

Despite Judge Garland’s stellar record, Republican leadership has continued to insist that his nomination should not be considered, reviewed, and voted on at all by the Senate, with Republican Majority Leader McConnell refusing even to meet with Judge Garland. Even conservative columnist George Will has recognized that the only reason for this obstuctionist blockade is political, with the hope that a Republican president elected in November (Donald Trump?) will be able to fill the vacancy. Despite claims to the contrary, Democrats have not stooped to such political gamesmanship, as is best shown by their decision to confirm Reagan Supreme Court nominee Anthony Kennedy when they controlled the Senate in presidential election year 1988. No, Judge Garland won’t be the far-right conservative that Republicans hope to get from a President Trump or Cruz, but that is simply no reason for Republican senators to refuse to do their job and at least act on the nomination. Cracks have already begun to appear in the Republican blockade, with Sen. Mark Kirk stating that Garland should receive a hearing and a vote. With continued pressure from Americans across the country, Judge Garland will hopefully receive the hearing and the vote that the Senate owes to him, the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and the American people.

PFAW

PFAW Hosts Telebriefing on the President's Supreme Court Nominee

One day after President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court, PFAW held a telebriefing for members about the extraordinarily qualified nominee and the GOP’s unprecedented obstruction campaign aimed at bringing the process of filling the vacancy to a halt.

PFAW’s Michael Keegan, Marge Baker, Elliot Mincberg, Drew Courtney, and Brian Tashman discussed the Republican blockade, Garland’s record as a judge, and what’s at stake in the confirmation fight for our constitutional rights and liberties.

“This nominee, when confirmed, will shift the balance” of a Supreme Court that has been one of the “most conservative Courts in decades,” Baker said. PFAW released a report last year, “Judgment Day 2016,” reviewing many of the 5-4 decisions that have had an enormous impact on the daily lives of Americans and highlighting how the composition of the Court is a key issue in 2016 and beyond.

Speakers outlined why it’s critical that Senate Republicans do their jobs and give Judge Garland the fair consideration that he deserves. Tashman noted that the Right’s encouragement of the GOP obstruction is nothing more than an “effort to delegitimize the president and play politics with the Court.”

You can listen to the full telebriefing here:

PFAW

A Circuit Court Nominee for Mitch McConnell to Consider

President Obama continues to work to fill our nation's judicial vacancies, this time with a Sixth Circuit nominee from Kentucky.
PFAW

Statement on Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s Continued Obstruction

In response to Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s willingness to meet with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, but only “to explain [her] position,” not to give real consideration to Garland, Lindsay Jakows, New Hampshire Campaign Organizer with People For the American Way, made the following statement:

“The Constitution calls on Senators to give fair consideration to a President’s Supreme Court nominee, meaning a hearing and a vote. Ayotte’s announcement that she’ll meet with Judge Garland to ‘explain [her] position’ falls far short of her doing her job and following the priorities of Granite Staters. Garland deserves a fair consideration, and Senator Ayotte should call on her party leadership to make sure that’s what he receives.”

According to recent polling, 59% of New Hampshire voters – and 60% of independent voters in New Hampshire – support filling the Supreme Court vacancy this year.

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.

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Statement from Dolores Huerta on the Nomination of Merrick Garland

Civil rights leader and People For the American Way board member Dolores Huerta today applauded the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

“I’m proud to support the confirmation of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, and I’m glad that President Obama decided to move the process forward even in the face of Republican threats to ignore the Constitution and block the nominee. It’s appalling that Republicans would refuse to give fair consideration to someone as qualified and committed to the Constitution as Merrick Garland.

“Latinos have a huge amount at stake at the Supreme Court. Whether it’s the fate of undocumented immigrants, or a woman’s right to choose, or the ability of workers to demand fair treatment in the workplace, the issues that matter to our community are going to be decided by the Supreme Court. It’s critical that we have someone who understands the impact that the Court’s rulings have in the real world, and it’s critical that we stand up to Republicans who want to play politics with the Constitution.”

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.

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PFAW Applauds Nomination of Garland to Supreme Court

People For the American Way today applauded the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

“Judge Garland is a brilliant choice, and President Obama deserves credit for moving this process forward despite the GOP’s threats of obstruction,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way. “Garland has demonstrated a remarkable intellect and a deep commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law. It’s unfathomable that Senate Republicans would refuse to give fair consideration to a nominee as qualified as Judge Garland. The Constitution makes clear that the Senate has the responsibility to give fair hearings and a timely vote to whoever the president nominates to the Supreme Court. Republicans need to do their job and treat this nominee with the basic respect he deserves.”

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.

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GOP's Newest Defense of SCOTUS Obstruction Falls Apart

The GOP's talking points keep changing as they are refuted, and the latest ones are really easy to refute.
PFAW

Some People Are Still Doing Their Job on Judges

Senate Republicans need to do their job and give 3rd Circuit nominee Rebecca Haywood timely and fair consideration.
PFAW

Ron Johnson's Revisionist History

Johnson's explanation for why he wanted to delay work on filling the 7th Circuit vacancy isn't consistent with the historical record.
PFAW

Edit Memo: Not Just the Supreme Court: Republicans’ Blockade of Judicial Nominees Started Long Before SCOTUS Vacancy

To: Interested Parties
From: Paul Gordon, Senior Legislative Counsel, People For the American Way
Date: March 14, 2016
Re: Not Just the Supreme Court: Republicans’ Blockade of Judicial Nominees Started Long Before SCOTUS Vacancy

Senate Republicans’ vow to block anyone nominated for the Supreme Court by President Obama, no matter who it may be, has rightly gotten a lot of headlines. Their refusal to even consider a president’s Supreme Court nominee is unprecedented. Unfortunately, this campaign of obstruction is just latest extension of their obstinate refusal to responsibly fulfill the constitutional duty of considering the president’s nominees across all levels of the federal judiciary. Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley is leading the party’s strategy to keep vacancies open for as long as possible on our nation’s federal circuit and district courts.

This isn’t the first time that Grassley has led his party in seeking to block Obama from filling important judicial vacancies, regardless of who he might nominate. In 2013, Grassley sought to eliminate three vacant judgeships from the critically important 11-member DC Circuit Court of Appeals, rather than allow Obama to fill any of them. This was two months before the president had even nominated anyone for these seats. When his eventual nominees appeared before the Judiciary Committee, Republican members followed the lead of then-Ranking Member Grassley in opposing them regardless of their legal acumen, their professional experience, or their judicial temperament. Ted Cruz, for instance, made clear to Patricia Millett that he would join Grassley’s effort to block her confirmation “irrespective of your very fine professional qualifications.” During this high-profile partisan confrontation that Grassley created over the nation’s second most powerful court, he supported his obviously political position with principled-sounding claims that were repeatedly shown upon investigation to be without merit.

Since the GOP took control of the Senate, he has used his position as chairman of the Judiciary Committee to drastically slow down the consideration of President Obama’s judicial nominees. Perhaps the most notorious example is the nomination of L. Felipe Restrepo of Pennsylvania to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. With the tacit cooperation of home state senator (and fellow Republican) Pat Toomey, Grassley did not even hold a confirmation hearing until seven months after Restrepo’s nomination, even though Toomey claimed to support the nomination and Restrepo had already been thoroughly fully vetted for a district judgeship just two years earlier. He was approved unanimously by the Judiciary Committee last July, but then languished on the Senate floor for half a year until Republicans finally allowed a confirmation vote in January. The delay had nothing to do with Restrepo’s qualifications: When he was finally confirmed, it was with overwhelming bipartisan support, with only six senators voting against him.

The current slowdown is a sharp departure from the norm, even considering other times when the White House and Senate are controlled by different parties. For instance, at this point in George W. Bush’s last two years, the Democratic-controlled Senate had confirmed 40 circuit and district court nominees. In contrast, the GOP-controlled Senate in President Obama’s last two years has only confirmed 16 judges so far. 2015 saw only 11 confirmations, the fewest since 1960, more than half a century ago, a time when there were hundreds fewer judgeships to fill than today.

March 9 saw a typical example of the Grassley model on the Senate floor, where he or one of his GOP colleagues on the Judiciary Committee actively – and needlessly – block votes on long-delayed, fully-vetted consensus nominees. Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski made a simple request of her colleagues: to hold a confirmation vote on two consensus district court nominees from Maryland and Tennessee. Paula Xinis has been awaiting a floor vote since she was approved by the Judiciary Committee by unanimous voice vote on September 17, nearly half a year ago. Tennessee’s Waverly Crenshaw has been waiting even longer: the committee advanced him – also by unanimous voice vote – way back on July 9. Each nominee has the support of their home state senators, two Democrats and two Republicans. Yet Sen. Mikulski’s request for a vote was blocked by Republican Judiciary Committee member John Cornyn of Texas, so individuals and businesses in Maryland and Tennessee are denied fully functioning federal courts.

In response to this floor action (or, more properly, floor inaction), the Judiciary Committee’s Ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy, noted the connection to the constitutional crisis over the current Supreme Court vacancy: “While Republicans refuse to even consider the next Supreme Court nominee, I would think they would at least allow consensus lower court nominees to be confirmed.” Unfortunately, the GOP’s obstructionism reaches every level of the federal judiciary.

The American system of justice, where everyone can be assured of their fair day in court when their rights are violated, depends on having enough judges to hear those cases. But since Republicans took over the Senate, the number of circuit and district vacancies has nearly doubled (from 40 to 73), and the number of those vacancies officially designated by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts as “judicial emergencies” has skyrocketed from 12 to 32.

So the refusal of the Senate GOP to do their job on judicial nominations is not new; it’s been their deliberate policy toward the entire federal court system. What’s new is the extension of that policy to the radical and irresponsible position that the Senate majority can refuse to perform its constitutional responsibility to give the president’s nominee fair consideration As chairman of the Judiciary Committee and architect of the party’s approach to judiciary matters, Chuck Grassley bears key responsibility for the harm his party is doing to the federal judiciary.

The damage is particularly bad when the vacancies occur at the circuit court level. Unlike district courts, circuit courts issue decisions that bind every federal court within their region. And since the Supreme Court takes so few cases each year, it is usually the circuit courts that have the last word on how the Constitution or federal laws will be interpreted in the regions they cover.

Fortunately, President Obama has nominated a number of highly qualified and respected individuals to serve on circuit courts around the country. When Democrats controlled the Senate, then-Chairman Patrick Leahy worked cooperatively with Republican home state senators to process circuit court nominees in a timely manner, such as when Iowan Jane Kelly was given a committee hearing less than a month after being nominated. Now that Grassley is chairman, it is imperative that he, too, work with home-state senators and fellow committee members to ensure that President Obama’s circuit court nominees have open hearings and timely committee votes. Indeed, several of these nominees could already have had their hearings by now.

Donald K. Schott of Wisconsin for the 7th Circuit (Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin): Nominated on January 12 (more than two months ago), Schott would fill a seat that has been empty for more than six years, the oldest circuit vacancy in the nation. He was evaluated and found qualified by the state’s bipartisan six-member Federal Nominating Commission, three appointed by Sen. Ron Johnson and three appointed by Sen. Tammy Baldwin. A longtime partner at a major national firm, Schott has extensive litigation experience at both the state and federal levels, and at both the trial and appellate levels. He has regularly been recognized as one of the best lawyers in the state. He also has strong support in the Wisconsin academic legal community.

Justice Myra Selby of Indiana for the 7th Circuit (covering Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin): Justice Selby was nominated on January 12 (more than two months ago). She had developed expertise in health care issues as a private practitioner and as a high-ranking state government official when she was appointed to the Indiana Supreme Court in the 1990s, becoming both the first woman and the first African American to serve on that court. Knowing the enormous impact that courts have on the lives of everyday Americans, Justice Selby led efforts to increase the state high court's accessibility to the Indiana public through public education and outreach. Since retiring from the state court, she has had a successful practice as a partner in the Indianapolis branch of a major law firm, while also chairing a state commission that studies ways to increase racial and gender fairness in the legal system. Upon confirmation to the Seventh Circuit, she would become the first African American from Indiana and the first woman from Indiana to serve on that court.

Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl of North Dakota for the 8th Circuit (covering Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota): Nominated on January 28, Puhl has worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office in North Dakota since 2002, gaining substantial experience prosecuting a variety of criminal matters. Her expertise across different areas of the law has led to her being named to a number of leadership roles, including Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Coordinator, National Security Cyber Specialist, Human Trafficking Coordinator, and Project Safe Childhood Coordinator. Puhl has played a major role in fighting human trafficking in North Dakota. Upon confirmation, Puhl would be the first woman ever to serve as a federal judge at any level in North Dakota, circuit or district. In addition, even though the 8th Circuit covers seven states, it has only had two women judges in its history.

Judge Abdul Kallon of Alabama for the 11th Circuit (covering Alabama, Florida, and Georgia): Judge Kallon was nominated on February 11. An immigrant from Sierra Leone, he began his legal career in Alabama, had extensive litigation experience, and became a partner in a major law firm based in Birmingham. His exemplary reputation in the legal community earned him the support of Alabama Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby when President Obama nominated him as a district judge in 2009. The Senate confirmed him unanimously for that position, and he has continued to earn the respect of the Alabama legal community. Upon confirmation, Kallon would become the first African American from Alabama to serve on the 11th Circuit (or on its predecessor court, the 5th Circuit, which used to include Alabama). The judgeship he would fill has been vacant since 2013 and has been formally designated a judicial emergency.

Judge Lucy Haeran Koh of California for the 9th Circuit (covering Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington): Koh was nominated on February 25 and would bring a wide range of professional experience to the bench. She spent several years at the Department of Justice, earning awards and recognition for her work as a prosecutor. She then moved to private practice and became a litigator and partner at a major law firm. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger then appointed her as a state judge in 2008. Her success at all these endeavors led President Obama to nominate her to become a federal district judge, and the Senate confirmed her unanimously in 2010. Upon confirmation to the 9th Circuit, Judge Koh would be only the second Asian American woman ever to serve on a federal circuit court. The vacancy she would fill has been formally designated a judicial emergency.

Nominations like these are important, but they don’t get the national attention that Supreme Court vacancies do. What’s important to note, however, is that when Chuck Grassley and his fellow Republicans claim some lofty-sounding principle to defend their planned and unprecedented Supreme Court blockade, they don’t have clean hands. Instead of doing their jobs of efficiently vetting and voting on judicial nominees in a timely manner, they’ve been stalling them at all levels.

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PFAW Targets Sen. Pat Toomey for Supreme Court Obstruction with Robocalls from Alfre Woodard

In a robocall released today by People For the American Way, award-winning actress Alfre Woodard calls Pennsylvania voters urging them to contact Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and demand that he give fair consideration to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. As the call states, Sen. Toomey has declared that he won’t fulfill his constitutional duty and instead falsely asserts it’s “not that big a deal” if the Supreme Court vacancy lasts for over a year.

“Sen. Toomey’s irresponsible obstruction is inexcusable,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way. “The Constitution is very clear that it’s the job of Senators to give fair consideration to Supreme Court nominees, and there’s certainly no exceptions during election years. Not only is it a ‘big deal’ if Sen. Toomey and his fellow Republican Senators refuse to do their jobs, it’s a crisis of constitutional proportions.”

This is the second set of robocalls that PFAW has launched on this issue. In February, Martin Sheen called Wisconsinites targeting Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) for his obstruction on the Supreme Court vacancy.

Listen to the call here: 



A transcript of the recording for today’s Pennsylvania calls reads:

Hi, this is Alfre Woodard, calling on behalf of People For the American Way.

When there’s a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the Constitution is clear about what happens next: the President nominates a new Justice and the Senate gives that nominee fair consideration.

But Republicans, including Senator Pat Toomey, are playing politics with the law and saying they won’t fulfill their constitutional obligation. Toomey even said it’s “not that big a deal” to leave the ninth Supreme Court seat empty for more than a year!

He couldn’t be more wrong.

Call Senator Toomey at (202) 224-4254, and tell him you expect him to put his Constitutional duties first—and give fair consideration to President Obama’s nominee.

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.

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Federalist Society VP Says Senate Could Ignore SCOTUS Nominees Indefinitely

During the administration of George W. Bush, the Federalist Society helped the administration fill the federal courts with judges who embrace a right-wing legal ideology. Back then, group leaders criticized Democratic senators for filibustering some nominees. But at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week, a senior Federalist Society staffer praised Republican Senators who have refused to even give a hearing to a nominee for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia  and suggested that if a Democrat is elected president this year, the Senate could continue its obstructionist blockade through the next administration.

The Federalist Society has often portrayed itself as a polite debating society and downplayed the important and destructive role it has played promoting far-right legal theories as well as judges and political officials who can turn that ideology into public policy. The Federalist Society’s influence reached a pinnacle with the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, an ideological warrior with deep roots in the right-wing legal movement. Alito, whose nomination was shepherded through the Senate by the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, has returned the favor as a justice, helping raise money for the Federalist Society and other right-wing groups, and becoming the single most pro-corporate justice on the most pro-business Supreme Court since the New Deal.

Dean Reuter, vice president of the Federalist Society, led a brief workshop at CPAC with John Yoo, a law professor and author of the infamous “torture memos” while working at the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration. Reuter and Yoo are co-editors of “Liberty’s Nemesis: The Unchecked Expansion of the State,” published last month. The book focuses on the growth of the administrative state, but Reuter began by addressing the dispute between the White House and Senate Republican leaders who have declared that they will refuse to even consider a Supreme Court nominee this year.

Reuter said it was the Senate’s duty to act as a check on executive power.

But I’m happy to report that the law and the Constitution are on the Senate’s side here. The president surely does have a duty to nominate someone, but the Senate has a co-equal duty as a co-equal branch of government to, in this case, operate as a check. It doesn’t have any responsibility or any duty to host one-on-one meetings with the nominee, or hold a hearing, or hold a committee vote or a floor vote. There’s no timetable. It’s not as if the president sends somebody over and says, we need this back next month, or next Wednesday, or whatever.

So the Senate is perfectly well within its prerogative, even the proper understanding of checks and balances, it can easily be said that the role of the Senate is to check the president’s power in this instance, the appointment power, especially I think when you’re dealing with a third branch of government and a lifetime appointment.

It’s not the president appointing the secretary of the Department of Commerce, it’s the president making an appointment to an independent, third branch of government and the Senate’s entitled to do its full due, which in this case may be not to act.

When asked if the Constitution would support the Senate’s refusal to act indefinitely if a Democrat were elected president, he said:

There’s no time limit in the Constitution. And there’s nothing magical about there being nine justices. The country started out with six justices, we’ve had as many as 10 at some point in time. And as recently as 2010, when Justice Elena Kagan came on the court, she had been solicitor general so she recused herself in over a third of the cases…I don’t see a sense of urgency.

The Federalist Society would undoubtedly experience a different sense of urgency if a Republican were elected president and given the opportunity to put more right-wing activists like Samuel Alito on the court.

PFAW Hosts Telebriefing on Women’s Health Cases at the Supreme Court

Two days after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case about laws that use unnecessary regulations to shut down abortion clinics, PFAW held a member telebriefing on the two cases that may be the most significant for women’s reproductive rights in decades. The second case, which is about access to birth control and is being called “Hobby Lobby Part Two,” will be argued at the Supreme Court later this month.

On the call, actress and advocate Kathleen Turner, PFAW’s Marge Baker, Elliot Mincberg, and Drew Courtney, and the Center for Reproductive Rights’ Kelly Baden discussed what’s at stake in these cases – Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt and Zubik v. Burwell – as well as the future of women’s reproductive rights.

Turner pointed out that these cases underscore the importance of our courts in keeping unconstitutional attacks in check and protecting women’s liberty and bodily autonomy. Baden went on to highlight the ways in which these attacks harm low-income and rural women in particular, who are least able to travel long distances and pay high price tags for abortion care.

You can listen to the full telebriefing here:

PFAW

New PFAW Report Examines Groups Fighting to Block SCOTUS Confirmation

Today, People For the American Way released a new report examining the role of right-wing groups pushing GOP senators to refuse giving fair consideration to President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, no matter who the nominee may be.

The report profiles four of the most influential groups representing the Religious Right and business interests who have come together to mount a public pressure campaign to convince senators to block whomever President Obama nominates.

  • The Judicial Crisis Network was founded during the George W. Bush administration as the Judicial Confirmation Network with the goal of pushing through the nominations and confirmations of far-right judges to the federal bench.
  • The American Center for Law & Justice, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson often acts as a legal arm for the Religious Right’s attempts to deny liberties to LGBT people, Muslim Americans and others.
  • The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action have become forces for obstructionism as they pressure Republicans to abandon any attempt at bipartisan cooperation or simple governance.
  • The Family Research Council is working to turn back the clock on social advances for women, LGBT people and religious minorities — something that it hopes a friendly Supreme Court will accelerate.

“Americans expect their senators to do their job and give fair consideration to President Obama’s nominee,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way. “Instead, we’re seeing GOP senators follow the lead of right-wing groups and politicians like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. That might win favor with Republicans’ right-wing base, but it also highlights the party’s campaign of obstruction and gridlock.”

Read the report here.

For questions about the report or to schedule an interview, please contact Laura Epstein (lepstein@pfaw.org).

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.

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NH Voters Call on Sen. Ayotte to Give Fair Consideration on Supreme Court Nominee

Today, over 40 New Hampshire activists gathered for a demonstration demanding that Senator Kelly Ayotte stop putting politics over the Constitution and instead give fair consideration to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. The demonstration included activists from People For the American Way, NextGen Climate, Granite State Progress, and Rights and Democracy.

“The Constitution is very clear that it is the job of the Senate to give fair consideration to nominees,” said Lindsay Jakows, New Hampshire Campaign Organizer with People For the American Way. “And as a former New Hampshire Attorney General who was herself appointed and confirmed in an election year, Ayotte should know better than to align herself with such blatant hypocrisy. It’s time for her to fulfill her responsibility to Granite Staters and do her job.”

Pictures from today's demonstration:

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an interview, please contact Laura Epstein (lepstein@pfaw.org) or Lindsay Jakows (ljakows@pfaw.org).

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.

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PFAW Hosts Telebriefing on Emergency Supreme Court Vacancy Campaign

As President Obama prepares to put forward a nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, GOP senators have taken a stance of unprecedented obstruction – refusing to even consider any nominee, regardless of their qualifications.

Yesterday People For the American Way hosted a member telebriefing calling out the ways in which Senate Republicans are irresponsibly abandoning their constitutional obligations to give fair consideration to Supreme Court nominees. Executive Vice President Marge Baker and Senior Fellow Elliot Mincberg discussed the crisis of constitutional proportions that Senate Republicans are leading us towards, and what activists can do to push senators to stop playing political games and do their jobs.

Listen to the telebriefing here:

PFAW

Will Grassley Quit as Judiciary Chair?

Here's what we'd see if Senate Republicans applied to themselves their professed rationale for refusing to consider any Supreme Court nominee by President Obama.
PFAW

Unlike Senate GOP, Obama Continues to Do His Job on Judges

The White House continues to make judicial nominations that Senate Republicans should responsibly consider and vote on.
PFAW

PFAW Kicks Off Emergency Campaign to Fill the Supreme Court's Vacancy

Senate Republicans took their partisan obstructionism to an unprecedented, wildly irresponsible level this month – they are flat out refusing to even consider any Supreme Court nominee put forth by President Obama. It’s a blatantly political move that the GOP is trying to justify with nonsense explanations, like “we’ve never confirmed a Supreme Court justice in an election year before” (false), and “the American people should have a say in the selection of the next justice” (they did, when they re-elected President Obama in 2012). As much as they might want to pretend otherwise, Republicans are refusing to do their jobs – and threatening to keep a seat on our nation’s highest court empty until 2017!

But we're not about to let them get away with it. That's why we've launched an emergency campaign to counter the GOP's blockade and fill the Supreme Court's vacancy. PFAW is uniquely qualified to lead this fight. Since the 1980s we've been the national leader in fighting the Right's efforts to pack the courts with extreme right-wing ideologues. And that's exactly what they're trying to do now, by keeping a vacancy on the Court for an entire year and playing politics with our federal judiciary. Republicans are shirking their constitutional responsibility to give fair consideration to a Supreme Court nominee and they must be held accountable. We have a long, tough road ahead of us, but we're not backing down, and we're so grateful to have PFAW members like you on board with us for this historic fight.

SCOTUS rally

Just hours after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Republicans made their intentions known: no fair consideration of any nominee put forward by President Obama. So we leapt into action that weekend, mobilizing supporters and activists for an impromptu rally outside of the Supreme Court that has already become the image of the movement, appearing in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Economist, the Atlantic, and more. We also held a campaign kickoff telebriefing this month for PFAW members across the country, to discuss our strategy for pushing the GOP to back off their unprecedented obstructionism

We're also fighting back by turning up the pressure on Senate Republicans. We teamed up with partner organizations to deliver over 500,000 petition signatures calling for fair consideration of a nominee to Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's Kentucky office. And this week we delivered one million signatures to the U.S. Senate! Americans want to see this Supreme Court vacancy filled, and we're making sure Republicans know that by refusing to consider a nominee, they're going against their constituents.

GOP senators’ refusal to even consider any Supreme Court nominee isn’t just a violation of their constitutional responsibility – it’s also not what their constituents want! Recent polls have shown that a majority of Americans support filling the Supreme Court vacancy, and for some Republican senators, the blockade is already hurting them with voters. We’re working to identify those Senators, and hit them where it hurts: with their constituents. In a robocall we released in Wisconsin this month, activists heard from Martin Sheen about Sen. Ron Johnson’s obstruction of President Obama’s nominee. Sheen asked Wisconsinites to call Sen. Johnson and tell him to put his constitutional duties first, and give fair consideration to whoever President Obama nominates. The robocalls received immediate media attention – exactly what Sen. Johnson doesn’t want. We’re strategizing similar actions for other states where Republican senators are facing tough re-election battles.

PFAW
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