Fair and Just Courts

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."

Beyond the Sigh of Relief: Justices in the Role of Marshall and Brennan

Transcript of an event at the National Press Club about nominating and confirming justices who will defend personal freedoms and fundamental rights.

Discussion on Obama and the Future of the Supreme Court

On December 9, People For the American Way Foundation will present a panel discussion entitled "Beyond the Sigh of Relief: Justices in the Mold of Marshall and Brennan" to examine what an ideal justice looks like in the twenty-first century. What: "Beyond the Sigh of Relief: Justices in the Mold of Marshall and Brennan"; When: December 9, 2008, 2:30 p.m.; Who: Kathryn Kolbert (moderator), Julius Chambers, Dahlia Lithwick, John Payton, and Jamin Raskin

Supreme Court Takes Detainee Case

The Supreme Court today decided to hear the case of Ali al-Marri, a U.S. resident who has been held without charge by the federal government for more than five years. The case will determine whether the president can order the indefinite military detention of people living in the United States. PFAW President Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement: "Despite its shift to the right, the Supreme Court has still proved itself willing to check the excessive power of the executive branch. I'm hopeful that the Court will stand up for the Constitution yet again, and place some meaningful limits on abuses of presidential power."

Kennedy Steps Down From Judiciary Committee

In response to Senator Kennedy's departure from the Senate Judiciary Committee, People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement: "During his years on the Judiciary Committee, Senator Kennedy proved himself to be one of the Constitution's staunchest defenders. His passion for justice and his deep commitment to equality under the law have helped to better our nation in countless ways. Although we look forward to working with Chairman Leahy and the other members of the committee, we will miss Senator Kennedy’s presence immeasurably. He is irreplaceable."

Holder: A Solid Pick for Attorney General

President-elect Barack Obama today announced his decision to nominate Eric Holder to be Attorney General in the new administration. People For the American Way president Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement: "After so many years of scandal and mismanagement at the Justice Department, we’re happy to see Eric Holder nominated for the top job. The Department of Justice should be a vigorous advocate of the rule of law. Under the Bush administration, it has been used as an ideological bludgeon. It's going to take a great deal of work to restore the credibility and authority of the Department of Justice, especially the civil rights division. Eric Holder is a solid choice for the job."

Exit Polls Say Supreme Court Was a Winning Issue for Obama

Exit polls from CNN provided more evidence that the Supreme Court was a winning issue for Senator Barack Obama. Data from the nationwide survey of voters shows that those who called the Supreme Court a factor in their vote broke for Obama 53 to 45. Voters who called future Supreme Court appointments the most important factor went for Obama even more strongly — 57 to 41. PFAW President Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement: "This week, voters elected someone who has said he will nominate justices who will protect their personal freedoms and ensure every American equal access to justice."

Television Ads Focus on Senators' Support for Harmful Bush Supreme Court Justices

TV ads airing this week in Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Oregon focus on the harmful impact of key senators' votes to confirm Bush nominees Samuel Alito and John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court and urges them to stop supporting bad judges.

Obama Wins Mandate on the Courts

A post-election memo from PFAW on how yesterday's results "delivered a sweeping mandate for President-elect Obama to appoint federal judges who are committed to core constitutional values."
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