Fair and Just Courts

Groups Deliver More than 140,000 Petitions to Impeach Bybee

People For the American Way and MoveOn.org Political Action today delivered more than 140,000 petitions to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers calling for the impeachment of Judge Jay Bybee for his role in trying to bend the law to justify the Bush administration's torture policies when he headed the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. After authoring memos explaining how prisoners could be tortured while skirting federal law, but before the memos became public, Bybee was confirmed to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Right Wing Follows Deceptive Script On Supreme Court

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

Right's Objections to Potential Justices Reveal Anti-Gay Bigotry

Among the attacks launched by right-wing leaders against potential nominees for the Supreme Court have been suggestions that an openly gay Supreme Court Justice would be unacceptable. People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan responded with the following statement: "Let’s be clear. Opposing a Supreme Court nominee because of his or her sexual orientation is inappropriate and unacceptable."

Obama Has Historic Opportunity to Establish Legacy of Justice

In response to the news that Justice David Souter will retire from the Supreme Court at the end of the Court's current term, People For the American Way president Michael B. Keegan issued the following statement: "President Barack Obama has the first real opportunity to establish a legacy that will extend far beyond his presidency. He made the Supreme Court a major feature of his campaign and won a strong mandate in November. He has expanded upon his mandate in his first 100 days and should now make a bold choice for the Supreme Court."

Justice Souter to Retire from Supreme Court

In response to media reports that indicate Justice David Souter will retire from the Supreme Court at the end of the Court's current term, Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way issued the following statement: "America owes a debt of gratitude to Justice Souter for his service. Justice Souter has shown a deep understanding not only of the law, but of the implications the Court's decisions have in the real world. He has been an important voice against ideological extremism. To fill Justice Souter's seat on the Court, President Obama should nominate someone who can continue his work to defend our personal freedoms and ensure that every person has equal access to justice. In November, President Obama was given a mandate to appoint federal judges who are committed to our core constitutional values of justice, equality, and opportunity for all. That is exactly what he should do."

Restore Justice Telebriefing with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

On Wednesday, April 22, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse joined People For the American Way’s members and activists for a telebriefing on the fight to confirm Dawn Johnsen, President Obama’s nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel.

Kathleen Turner Phone Calls Support Confirmation of Dawn Johnsen

Residents of nine states will be receiving automated calls featuring the voice of actress Kathleen Turner supporting the confirmation of Dawn Johnsen. The calls urge constituents to call targeted Senators to demand that they support Johnsen, President Obama's nominee to lead the Office of Legal Counsel.

White House Releases Bush Torture Memos

Yesterday, the White House released a set of torture memos drafted by the Office of Legal Counsel under the Bush Administration. The memos attempted to justify brutal treatment of detainees, including slamming subjects against wall, striking them repeatedly in the face and abdomen, confining them to small boxes, and threatening them with stinging insects.

Kagan Confirmed as SG, Johnsen Moves to Senate Floor

The Senate today confirmed Elena Kagan as Solicitor General by a vote of 61 to 31. Earlier in the day, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to the Senate floor on a near party line vote. People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement: "The confirmation of Elena Kagan to be the nation's advocate before the Supreme Court is an historic step for women. Just over a century ago, women weren't allowed to practice law or vote — today's vote is a sign of how far we've come. But I was deeply disappointed to see so many members of the GOP put politics ahead of principle in opposing the nomination of Dawn Johnsen as head of the Office of Legal Counsel. Dawn Johnsen has the experience, the intellect, and the integrity to bring respectability back to the OLC, and her confirmation should be above petty politics."

Obama Drops "Enemy Combatant" Designation

The Obama Administration today announced that it would no longer use the designation of "enemy combatant," and will no longer use executive authority to indefinitely detain individuals. PFAW President Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement: "Today, President Obama reversed one of the most outrageous policies of the Bush Administration. By dropping the designation of 'enemy combatant,' President Obama is taking a significant step towards reconciling our government’s actions with the principles of the Constitution. In his inaugural address, he claimed to reject the false choice between our ideals and our safety. Today he proved that he means it. I applaud his decision."

David Ogden Confirmed as Deputy Attorney General

Today the Senate voted 65-28 to confirm David Ogden as Deputy Attorney General. People For the American Way president Kathryn Kolbert said, "It's incredible to think that Senate Republicans considered filibustering David Ogden's nomination even for a second. Ogden is a widely respected attorney with previous Justice Department experience and bipartisan support. He is precisely the type of person we need at the helm of the Justice Department as it tackles the many challenges facing our nation.

Supreme Court Knocks Down Bogus Pre-Emption Claim in Drug Labeling Case

Today the Supreme Court in Wyeth v. Levine rejected the claim by drug maker Wyeth that federal approval of its drug labels shields it from liability under state law. The 6-3 ruling upheld a jury settlement to Diana Levine, a Vermont musician who lost much of her right arm after a Wyeth medication was improperly administered. PFAW President Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement: "Today's ruling was a welcome, and rare, victory for the rights of American patients and consumers. The pre-emption policy advocated by Wyeth would have irresponsibly shut off the ability of states to safeguard the health — and very lives — of Americans."

Republicans Threaten to Block Obama's Judges

In a letter released yesterday, all 41 Senate Republicans threatened to filibuster President Obama's judicial nominees unless they were given veto power over judges from their states. "The Republicans are doing everything in their power to cement their reputation as the 'Party of No,'" said PFAW President Kathryn Kolbert. "Voters gave President Obama a mandate to appoint judges who understand that the Constitution and the laws provide for equal justice for all. Now, before a single nomination has been announced, Republicans are threatening to block every single one of Obama's nominees. That's chutzpah."

Attacks on DOJ Nominees Signal Right's Judicial Nominations Strategy

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

DOJ Asserts State Secret Privilege

In response to the Department of Justice's assertion of "state secrets" privilege in the case Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen, PFAW President Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement: "After we worked very hard to pave the way for Attorney General Holder's smooth confirmation, this decision to continue the Bush administration's position is extremely discouraging. During the campaign, President Obama pledged to reform the abuse of state secrets privilege, so this move is all the more disappointing."

People For Foundation Wishes Justice Ginsburg a Speedy Recovery

Following news reports that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized for surgery for pancreatic cancer, PFAW Foundation President Kathryn Kolbert said, "We and our members across the country are saddened by news of Justice Ginsburg's hospitalization, but are wishing her a speedy recovery. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Justice Ginsburg, and her family and loved ones. Justice Ginsburg has been a crucial voice on the Court in support of our core constitutional values of personal freedom and equal justice for all."

Eric Holder Confirmed as Attorney General

By a vote of 75 to 21, the Senate today confirmed Eric Holder to the office of Attorney General. People For the American Way president Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement: "Today's vote was an enormous step forward in our fight to restore the rule of law to the Department of Justice. Now it's time to get to work repairing the damage that has been done to the DOJ over the last eight years. Eric Holder has the integrity, the intelligence, and the independence to address the enormous challenges we face, and we look forward to working with him to ensure that our government stays true to the core constitutional values of equality and justice for all."

Holder Nomination Approved By Judiciary Committee

By a vote of 17 to 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee today overwhelmingly approved the nomination of Eric Holder to be Attorney General of the United States. The nomination will now go to the full Senate. People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement: "Eric Holder's nomination is heading to the floor with the strong bipartisan support of the Judiciary Committee, just as it should. After the last eight years, the reputation of the Department of Justice is in tatters, and it will take someone like Eric Holder to restore it. Holder's confirmation has been delayed long enough. The full Senate should quickly confirm this nomination so we can begin to restore justice to the DOJ."

Dozens of Advocacy Groups Line Up to Support Eric Holder

PFAW joined more than 65 religious, human rights, social and economic justice organizations in issuing a letter to the leaders of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, urging the Senate to confirm Eric Holder as Attorney General without delay. "The groundswell of support that Eric Holder has received is a testament to his unquestionable qualifications for this office," said PFAW President Kathryn Kolbert. The letter cites Holder's "integrity, independence, reputation, experience, judgment, inclusiveness, and temperament" in making their endorsement, calling Holder a "stellar nominee."

People For Statement on Justice Department Nominations

President-elect Barack Obama today announced a strong slate of nominees to fill critical Department of Justice positions including that of Elena Kagan, Dean of Harvard Law School, as Solicitor General of the United States. PFAW President Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement: "Americans concerned with justice should be very pleased about today's nominations, including Elena Kagan to be Solicitor General. Kagan's legal skills are only matched by her commitment to the Constitutional values at the core of our nation. This announcement sends a clear message that the politicization of the Department of Justice is coming to an end. It's a great relief to know that our laws will again be enforced with honesty and integrity."
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