Fair and Just Courts

PFAW Statement on Confirmation of Judge Dale Drozd

Inching Forward is Not Enough: The GOP Must End its Relentless Obstruction of Judicial Nominees

WASHINGTON – Today Judge Dale Drozd was confirmed by the Senate to serve as a U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of California. Drozd was voted out of committee with overwhelming bipartisan support four months ago, but only today did the Senate GOP leadership end their needless obstruction of his confirmation. He was only the seventh judge confirmed this year, an inexcusably small number.

People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:

We congratulate Judge Drozd, a highly qualified nominee, on his long overdue confirmation today. But inching forward on the critical task of judicial confirmations is not enough. That a vacant seat classified as a judicial emergency sat open for so long while Republican leadership dragged their feet is an insult to all the Americans waiting for their day in court.

Despite a judicial vacancy crisis and a plethora of highly qualified nominees, the Republican led-Senate has scheduled votes on a total of seven judges this Congress. This is the slowest rate of judicial confirmations since the 1950s, when there were far fewer vacancies to fill. The GOP needs to stop putting politics above the basic functioning of our judicial system.

People For the American Way has a new edit memo detailing the latest information on judicial nominations, including:

  • Comparisons between today’s rate of judicial confirmations and the rate during the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency, when Democrats controlled the Senate.
  • Comparisons between today’s number of judicial vacancies and judicial emergencies and those during Bush’s last two years.
  • Information on some of the many examples of how Republicans are blocking confirmation votes on qualified nominees.

PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker and PFAW Senior Legislative Counsel Paul Gordon are available to speak with the press. To arrange an interview, please contact Layne Amerikaner at media@pfaw.org.

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Reckless Obstruction: Blocking Nominees, Blocking Justice

To: Interested Parties
From: Paul Gordon, Senior Legislative Counsel, People For the American Way
Date: UPDATED October 5, 2015
Re: Reckless Obstruction: Blocking Nominees, Blocking Justice

Under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, the Republican-controlled Senate has surprised even cynical observers at the extent to which it has failed to fulfill its most basic duties.  Few of its responsibilities are more important than confirming qualified federal judges: Courts are the infrastructure of justice, just as important to our constitutional rights as roads and bridges are to transportation.

Unfortunately, the Republican Senate is failing to carry out its basic obligation of confirming federal judges.  They are weakening the entire third branch of the United States government and harming individuals and businesses across America.  As we head into autumn, it is incumbent on Senate Republicans to process judicial nominees in a professional manner.

Failing to confirm judges is not at all 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.  A week after those elections, Senator Patrick Leahy – who was about to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee – criticized Republicans for blocking votes on more than a dozen of Bush’s qualified nominees.  Partisanship took a back seat to responsible governing.

So in 2007, Leahy and new Majority Leader Harry Reid worked together to make sure the Judiciary Committee and full Senate fulfilled its constitutional responsibilities.  During those two years, the Senate vetted and confirmed 68 of Bush’s circuit and district court nominees.  In fact, the Democratic Senate had already confirmed 33 of Bush’s judges by this same point in the year (October 5 of 2007).  In stark contrast, the McConnell Senate has so far confirmed only seven Obama judges. No matter how you look at it, 33 ≠ 7.

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.

graph1

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 vacancies is climbing steadily, from 40 at the beginning of the year to 63 today, a nearly 60% increase.

graph2

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 year to 31 today. 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.

graph3

Majority Leader McConnell could start turning this situation around simply by scheduling votes. As the Senate prepares to leave town for its October recess, one circuit and eight district court nominees have been fully vetted and approved by the Judiciary Committee and are ready for a confirmation vote. Six of these have been languishing on the Senate floor since June or July. Six of the nominees would fill judicial emergencies. All were approved by the Judiciary Committee unanimously. Yet McConnell has made sure that none of these gets a timely confirmation vote. (Also denied floor votes are five nominees for the Court of Federal Claims and one for the Court of International Trade, all approved without opposition by the Judiciary Committee last year in the previous Congress and then again in February in the new one.)

Those being blocked include L. Felipe Restrepo of Pennsylvania, President Obama’s nominee for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.  He was nominated in November with the support of his two home state senators, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey.  He could and should have been confirmed long ago.  Unfortunately, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley waited a full seven months after Restrepo’s nomination before even holding a hearing, even though he would fill a judicial emergency.  (The chairman’s suggestion that the committee needed all that time to go through his background investigation was simply not believable, especially since Restrepo had just recently undergone an investigation when the Senate had confirmed him to a district court judgeship in 2013.)  Adding insult to injury, Senator Toomey is apparently collaborating with his party leadership’s plans to delay that vote for as long as possible.

Also waiting too long are three district court nominees from New York: Ann Donnelly, LaShann DeArcy Hall, and Lawrence Vilardo, all of whom were approved unanimously by the Judiciary Committee in early June.  At the end of July, after putting up with eight weeks of delay, New York Senator Chuck Schumer asked for unanimous consent for the Senate to hold a confirmation vote for them.  However, Grassley refused, thereby preventing a vote.  Importantly, Grassley did not claim that senators needed more time to vet the nominees.  Instead, he said the Senate should not vote on the three New York nominees because the Senate was planning to vote in September on a nominee who had been waiting longer, and because the Senate had confirmed many of Obama’s judicial nominees in 2009-2014, including several during the lame-duck session last December.  Of course, that is of no help to the individuals and businesses whose access to justice is curtailed by the lack of judges in New York.

For a chairman of the Judiciary Committee, it was a revealing moment, one that contrasted the current partisanship to the more responsible approach to running the Senate we saw in Bush’s last two years.  Even when Republicans agree with Democrats that particular nominees are highly qualified to fill critically important positions in our nation’s judiciary, the GOP regards scheduling a vote as a major concession to the Democrats.  The current Republican majority simply does not take governing seriously.

Carly Fiorina Falsely Claims She Never Called Obergefell The 'Law Of The Land'

As a number of commentators have pointed out recently, Carly Fiorina’s swift rise in Republican presidential polls has given her an opportunity to display what Mother Jones called her “adventurous relationship to the truth,” which includes deliberately misleading statements on everything from the contents of the Planned Parenthood smear videos to her record as CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

Fiorina displayed her signature truthiness once again in an interview Friday with Iowa conservative radio host Jan Mickelson, who asked her to defend her statement that Supreme Court decisions like Obergefell v. Hodges are “the law of the land,” which he said would turn off voters in Iowa.

Fiorina insisted that she had never said that, speculating, “I think that is a quote from someone else, not from me,” and suggesting that Mickelson might be thinking of her Republican rival John Kasich.

In fact, Fiorina said those very words in an interview with the Iowa conservative blog Caffeinated Thoughts in May when asked about the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in the marriage equality case.

“I think the Supreme Court decision will become the law of the land, and however much I may agree or disagree with it, I wouldn’t support an amendment to reverse it,” she said. “And I very much hope that we will come to a place now in this nation where we can support their decision and at the same time support people’s right to hold religious views and to protect their right to exercise those views.”

Fiorina told Mickelson that “there is an argument to be made for judicial engagement to rectify when the law begins to impinge on the personal immunities and privileges of citizens,” but seemed to imply that the denial of marriage rights was not such a case. Grasping onto the Right’s argument that LGBT equality undermines religious freedom, she called for the passage of state Religious Freedom Restoration Act laws similar to a controversial one passed and later amended in Indiana, which would have opened the door for anti-LGBT discrimination. She also called for the passage of such a law at “the federal level” — there is already a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, so presumably Fiorina supports one that would expand the ability of people to discriminate against LGBT people.

Fiorina also promised that if she were to become president, she would “appoint the right justices” and “spend a lot of time” with potential nominees “to see how well they hold up to pressure, because people look like they’re one thing and then become another thing when they can’t take pressure.”

When Mickelson suggested that Sen. Ted Cruz might fit the bill for a Fiorina Supreme Court, Fiorina laughed: “Well, wouldn’t that be an interesting selection. He clearly can stand up to pressure.”

UPDATE: Fiorina appeared again on Mickelson’s program on Monday, where he confronted her a clip of her “law of the land” comments. Fiorina evaded the question, telling Mickelson that she had “no idea what reference that snippet was from,” but that if it was “about gay marriage” she was saying that “we profoundly disagree with this” and will focus on finding Supreme Court nominees who will overturn it.

What I said, for example, was we need to be, if that was about gay marriage, we profoundly disagree with this, we need to invest our political capital and our leadership now in protecting religious liberty all across this nation, which means every state needs to enact a religious freedom protection act, as we have a national act. And it also reminds us how important it is who’s on the Supreme Court. So, let’s focus our energies on making sure we have the right nominees and the right protections and liberties.

Edit Memo: The Supreme Court's 2015-2016 Term Preview

This Supreme Court term may be yet another one where the American people enjoy less liberty, less equality, less power, and less control over our own democracy on the last day of the term than we had on the first.

Why November 8, 2016 is Judgment Day for the Supreme Court -- and Our Rights

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

What would have happened if a President McCain had appointed conservatives to the Supreme Court, instead of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, before the Court ruled on marriage equality in the Obergefell case? And what if a President Kerry had filled the seats that Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito took before the Court decided theCitizens United campaign finance case? Clearly both those rulings would have come out very differently, with enormous consequences for all Americans. As we approach the tenth anniversary of the Roberts-Alito Court and as the 2016 elections get more and more attention, these examples and many more should alert us that Election Day 2016 is truly judgment day for the Supreme Court and for Americans’ rights and liberties. 

Today, People For the American Way released a comprehensive report, Judgment Day 2016, which looks at pivotal Court decisions since Roberts and Alito joined the Court that were decided by a single vote. Many have seriously harmed the rights of ordinary Americans and promoted the interests of powerful corporations. Examples include Citizens United, the ruling striking down a key part of the Voting Rights Act inShelby County v. Holder, the decision allowing corporations to claim religion and  deny contraceptive coverage to women in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, and the holding reinterpreting the Second Amendment and severely limiting efforts to limit gun violence in District of Columbia v. Heller. All these and many other decisions could be overruled or limited if a progressive justice replaces just one conservative on the Court, significantly blunting the right-wing judicial assault on a broad array of our rights and liberties.

But there have also been many critical 5-4 decisions over the past ten years where the Court’s  moderate justices, usually joined by Justice Kennedy, have succeeded in protecting Americans’  rights and liberties. In addition to Obergefell, which found a constitutional right to marriage equality, examples include Massachusetts v. EPA, where the Court upheld EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases; Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama, which invalidated a state redistricting scheme that used race to harm minority voters; and Boumediene v. Bush, which narrowly ruled that prisoners detained at Guantanamo can challenge their detention through habeas corpus petitions. All these and many other rulings could be overturned or limited if a right-wing justice replaces just one of the moderates on the Court. A Supreme Court with a far-right supermajority would put more and more of our rights at risk.

Why is this particularly important now? During the first term of whoever is elected President in 2016, four Supreme Court justices - including extreme conservative Antonin Scalia, conservative swing vote Anthony Kennedy, and moderates Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer - will be over 80 years old. Given that the average retirement age for justices since 1971 is 78, the odds are overwhelming that the President elected next year will be able to nominate one or more justices who could produce a critical shift in the Court’s ideological balance.

Leading presidential candidates from both parties have already recognized the importance of future Supreme Court appointments and made clear their intent to nominate justices in accord with their views on crucial constitutional issues. In criticizing the Court’s recent 5-4 decision in Obergefell striking down discriminatory marriage bans, for example, Republican candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio pledged to appoint to the Court “people with a proven record of judicial restraint” and “justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood,” in the hope of undermining or reversing the Court’s decision. On the other hand, in criticizing the Court’s 5-4 decisions striking down federal campaign finance law in Citizens United and part of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County, Hillary Clinton pledged to “do everything I can to appoint Supreme Court justices who protect the right to vote and do not protect the right of billionaires to buy elections.”

PFAW’s report carefully reviews 5-4 decisions in eleven key areas where the next President and Supreme Court justice could make such a crucial difference to all Americans. These include money in politics; civil and voting rights (including immigration); LGBT rights; reproductive freedom and women’s rights; workplace fairness; protecting the environment; religious liberty; gun violence; marketplace and consumer fairness; access to justice; and protection against government abuse. In addition to past 5-4 rulings in these areas that could be limited or overruled, the Court is quite likely to be deciding cases on these and other key subjects in the years to come.

 Conservatives clearly understand the crucial importance of the Court and the next election in all these areas, with one far right activist noting that “we cannot overstate the importance of the Supreme Court in the next election.” In fact, her group - the Judicial Crisis Network - recently launched an ad campaign criticizing Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy as not conservative enough,  and demanding that Republican candidates pledge to appoint even more conservative justices. The group noted that Court decisions affect “every aspect of our lives today” and that “the next President could appoint a new majority to last a generation.” Hopefully, statements like that will help all Americans to pay close attention to the Supreme Court in the 2016 election and to recognize that November 8, 2016 truly is judgment day.

PFAW

Supreme Court Nominations: An Issue Affecting All Other Issues, in 2016 and Beyond

In the past decade, scores of Supreme Court decisions addressing some of the most fundamental questions in our country have hinged on the vote of a single Supreme Court justice. Who can marry? Can everyone access the ballot box? Can women be denied reproductive health care? Can corporations flood elections with money?

In past 5-4 decisions on questions like these, from Citizens United to Hobby Lobby to Obergefell, the impact of each presidential Supreme Court nomination on our rights and liberties is clear. And for future decisions, Election Day 2016 – when Americans elect a president who will almost certainly be nominating one or more new justices – becomes a “judgment day” for our rights going forward.

A new PFAW report out today, “Judgment Day 2016,” looks at 80 5-4 decisions the Court has issued since Bush-nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito joined the Court ten years ago in key areas like money and politics; civil and voting rights; LGBT rights; women’s rights; workplace fairness; protecting the environment, and more. On a range of issues, the report underscores what’s at stake when Americans vote next November.

As principal report author and PFAW Senior Fellow Elliot Mincberg put it:

In the 2016 election, the Supreme Court is on the ballot…Our next president may very well be nominating three or more Supreme Court justices who could tip the balance in critically important cases.

You can read the report here.

PFAW

New PFAW Report Examines Supreme Court Nominations as a Critical 2016 Election Issue

WASHINGTON – With little over a year left before 2016 election, People For the American Way released a report today analyzing recent 5-4 decisions from the Supreme Court and the effect that new Justices could have on the Court’s direction. 

The report, “Judgment Day 2016: The Future of the Supreme Court as a Critical Issue in the 2016 Presidential Election,” examines more than 80 5-4 decisions the Court has issued since President George W. Bush pushed the nation’s highest court far rightward by putting John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court in 2005-6. In light of the narrow majorities in landmark decisions such as Obergefell v. Hodges (protecting the right of same-sex couples to marry), Citizens United v. FEC (finding that corporations have a right to make unlimited campaign expenditures), Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (finding that corporations can claim religious rights to exempt themselves from federal laws about contraceptive coverage), and Shelby County v. Holder (overturning a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act), the report highlights the fact that Election Day 2016 is  “Judgment Day” for the rights of all Americans going forward.

The report reviews and analyzes 5-4 court decisions in eleven key areas:

•        Money and politics
•        Civil and voting rights
•        LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights
•        Reproductive freedom and women’s rights
•        Workplace fairness
•        Protecting the environment
•        Religious liberty
•        Gun violence
•        Marketplace and consumer fairness
•        Access to justice
•        Protection against government abuse

“In the 2016 election, the Supreme Court is on the ballot,” said Elliot Mincberg, Senior Fellow at People For the American Way, principal author of the Judgment Day 2016 report. “Closely-divided 5-4 Supreme Court rulings in recent years have wreaked havoc on Americans’ rights and, in some cases, only narrowly averted doing so. Our next president may very well be nominating three or more Supreme Court justices who could tip the balance in critically important cases. This report highlights what’s at stake for our rights when Americans cast their ballot next November.”

You can read the full report here.

Elliot Mincberg is available to speak with press. To arrange an interview, please reach out to Layne Amerikaner or Drew Courtney at media@pfaw.org.

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Judgment Day 2016: The Future of the Supreme Court as a Critical Issue in the 2016 Presidential Election

Of all the important issues at stake in the 2016 presidential election, one stands out for right-wing conservatives: the future of the Supreme Court. For the rights of all Americans, November 8, 2016, is truly judgment day.

Far Right SCOTUS Isn't Extreme Enough For GOP Presidential Hopefuls

Last night’s Republican presidential debate made clear just how extreme the party has gotten when it comes to the Supreme Court … which means danger to the entire country should one of them have the power to nominate the next one, two, or three Justices.

For instance, Jeb! Bush praised Chief Justice John Roberts,  but suggested that his own Court nominees would have longer records of far-right jurisprudence than Roberts did when he was first nominated by George W. Bush in 2005:

John Roberts has made some really good decisions, for sure, but he did not have a proven, extensive record that would have made the clarity the important thing, and that’s what we need to do.  ... And, I think he is doing a good job.  But, the simple fact is that going forward, what we need to do is to have someone that has a long standing set of rulings that consistently makes it clear that he is a focused, exclusively on upholding the Constitution of the United States so they won’t try to use the bench as a means to which legislate.

Jeb! revealed quite a lot there.  Roberts provided the fifth vote in 5-4 rulings wrecking Americans’ ability to limit money in politics, gutting the Voting Rights Act, giving for-profit corporations religious liberty rights, elevating religious offense as a significant burden on religious exercise, upholding a late term abortion ban, weakening longstanding laws against job discrimination … the list goes on.  And Jeb! thinks Roberts is “doing a good job,” even if his own Justices would be more conservative.

Ted Cruz, on the other hand, angrily focused on the very few times when Roberts did not collaborate with the Republican Party’s efforts to destroy Obamacare.  Cruz blasted John Roberts as insufficiently conservative:

I’ve known John Roberts for 20 years, he’s amazingly talented lawyer, but, yes, it was a mistake when he was appointed to the Supreme Court. He’s a good enough lawyer that he knows in these Obamacare cases he changed the statute, he changed the law in order to force that failed law on millions of Americans for a political outcome.

And, you know, we’re frustrated as conservatives. We keep winning elections, and then we don’t get the outcome we want.

Mike Huckabee made clear what type of Justice he would nominate when the moderator asked if he would apply a litmus test to potential nominees:

You better believe I will … Number one, I’d ask do you think that the unborn child is a human being or is it just a blob of tissue? I’d want to know the answer to that. I’d want to know do you believe in the First Amendment, do you believe that religious liberty is the fundamental liberty around which all the other freedoms of this country are based? And I’d want to know do you really believe in the Second Amendment, do you believe that we have an individual right to bear arms to protect ourselves and our family and to protect our country? And do you believe in the Fifth and the 14th Amendment? Do you believe that a person, before they’re deprived of life and liberty, should in fact have due process and equal protection under the law? Because if you do, you’re going to do more than defund Planned Parenthood

So Huckabee Justices would help right-wing extremists accomplish their longtime dream of eliminating abortion rights altogether.  They would also change U.S. law in keeping with the current conservative project to make it easier for them to disobey laws that offend them religiously, even when it deprives other people of their rights.

The current Supreme Court has done so much damage to our basic rights and liberties, yet it is not conservative enough for Republicans seeking to be the next president.

Cross-posted from People For the American Way's blog.

Far Right SCOTUS Isn't Extreme Enough For GOP Presidential Hopefuls

GOP presidential hopefuls would make the already-right-wing Supreme Court even more extreme.
PFAW

Conservatives See 2016 As Key To A More Conservative SCOTUS

Four of the nine Supreme Court Justices will be in their 80s during the first term of whoever is elected president next year, meaning he or she could usher in an enormous shift in the Court’s makeup.  The Court issues enormously consequential rulings on numerous issues affecting everyone across the country – LGBT equality, money in politics, workers’ rights, religious liberty, workplace discrimination, abortion rights, and many others.  With the current Court so often divided 5-4, usually tilting toward far-right conservatives, it’s clear that the Supreme Court is perhaps the most important issue in the 2016 presidential election.

You certainly don’t need to persuade conservatives.  In fact, according to press reports, the far-right Judicial Crisis Network is launching a new website and ad campaign to pressure GOP presidential hopefuls ever rightward on the issue of Supreme Court nominations.  A reported in The Hill, the group blasts the arch-conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and very conservative Anthony Kennedy as insufficiently conservative.

“Demand justices with a proven record of upholding the constitution. We can’t afford more surprises,” a narrator says as the video shows the faces of Roberts, Kennedy and former Justice David Souter, who retired in 2009.

The three justices are “examples of bad GOP appointments,” the Judicial Crisis Network said in a statement announcing the advertisements.



[JCN] says it made the $200,000 television and digital ad buys ahead of the Republican presidential debates to get candidates on the record about their approach to Supreme Court picks. The next Republican debate is Wednesday.

The television and digital ads are set to run in Iowa, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. starting Monday, the group said.

Roberts and Kennedy … not conservative enough?  Along with Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, they formed the five-person majority that gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act (Shelby County), opened the floodgates to corporate money in politics (Citizens United), twisted religious liberty into a tool to deprive others of their legal rights (Hobby Lobby), and regularly misinterpret and severely undermine our nation’s anti-discrimination laws (Ledbetter, for a start).  True, Justice Kennedy authored the Court’s key opinions recognizing the constitutional rights and basic humanity of LGBT people, but he is no liberal.

If conservative activists succeed in electing a conservative president who wants to drive the currently far-right Supreme Court even farther rightward, the repercussions will be enormous.

But imagine instead if Americans elect a president who wants to restore a high court that recognizes and protects our constitutional and statutory rights to liberty, equality, and democracy … Again, the repercussions for people across the entire country would be enormous.

There is one thing where we agree with the JCN.  As their ad says:

On the most important issues, the Supreme Court decides.  The next president could appoint a new majority to last a generation.

Keep that in mind between now and Election Day.  You can be assured that conservatives will.

Cross-posted from People For the American Way's blog.

Conservatives See 2016 as Key to a More Conservative SCOTUS

Four of the nine Supreme Court Justices will be in their 80s during the first term of whoever is elected president next year, meaning he or she could usher in an enormous shift in the Court’s makeup.  The Court issues enormously consequential rulings on numerous issues affecting everyone across the country – LGBT equality, money in politics, workers’ rights, religious liberty, workplace discrimination, abortion rights, and many others.  With the current Court so often divided 5-4, usually tilting toward far-right conservatives, it’s clear that the Supreme Court is perhaps the most important issue in the 2016 presidential election.

You certainly don’t need to persuade conservatives.  In fact, according to press reports, the far-right Judicial Crisis Network is launching a new website and ad campaign to pressure GOP presidential hopefuls ever rightward on the issue of Supreme Court nominations.  A reported in The Hill, the group blasts the arch-conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and very conservative Anthony Kennedy as insufficiently conservative.

“Demand justices with a proven record of upholding the constitution. We can’t afford more surprises,” a narrator says as the video shows the faces of Roberts, Kennedy and former Justice David Souter, who retired in 2009.

The three justices are “examples of bad GOP appointments,” the Judicial Crisis Network said in a statement announcing the advertisements.

[JCN] says it made the $200,000 television and digital ad buys ahead of the Republican presidential debates to get candidates on the record about their approach to Supreme Court picks. The next Republican debate is Wednesday.

The television and digital ads are set to run in Iowa, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. starting Monday, the group said.

Roberts and Kennedy … not conservative enough?  Along with Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, they formed the five-person majority that gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act (Shelby County), opened the floodgates to corporate money in politics (Citizens United), twisted religious liberty into a tool to deprive others of their legal rights (Hobby Lobby), and regularly misinterpret and severely undermine our nation’s anti-discrimination laws (Ledbetter, for a start).  True, Justice Kennedy authored the Court’s key opinions recognizing the constitutional rights and basic humanity of LGBT people, but he is no liberal.

If conservative activists succeed in electing a conservative president who wants to drive the currently far-right Supreme Court even farther rightward, the repercussions will be enormous.

But imagine instead if Americans elect a president who wants to restore a high court that recognizes and protects our constitutional and statutory rights to liberty, equality, and democracy … Again, the repercussions for people across the entire country would be enormous.

There is one thing where we agree with the JCN.  As their ad says:

On the most important issues, the Supreme Court decides.  The next president could appoint a new majority to last a generation.

Keep that in mind between now and Election Day.  You can be assured that conservatives will.

PFAW

Christian Reconstrucionist Michael Peroutka Joins Kim Davis Fan Club

Michael Peroutka, a neo-confederate whose Institute on the Constitution promotes a far-right Christian Reconstructionist view of religion and government, has joined the chorus of right-wing voices that have gathered to defend Kim Davis, the county clerk jailed for contempt of court after refusing to obey a court order that she issue marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples.

Peroutka appeared at a rally with other Davis supporters over the weekend, declaring, “Kim Davis has given all believers a lesson in faithfulness.”

Peroutka ran as a Republican and won a seat on the county council of Ann Arundel County, Maryland, last year, once declared that the Maryland General Assembly had no legitimacy after passing gay-rights legislation that he said violated God’s law. Peroutka is also a long-time funder of the right-wing activism of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has also been promoting resistance to the “tyranny” of judges who rule for marriage equality.

An NBC News story on Peroutka’s support for Kim Davis quoted him saying, “There is no law that requires her to grant a marriage license to people of the same sex. The Court has had many opinions ... but they are not law."

Earlier this year, Peroutka’s Institute on the Constitution warned U.S. Supreme Court justices that striking down state bans on marriage equality “could bring God’s judgment on the Nation.”

Noebel: Teaching Gay Tolerance In Schools Is 'Child Molestation'

Iowa Religious Right activist and state Republican Party committeewoman Tamara Scott invited Summit Ministries founder David Noebel onto her “Truth for Our Time” radio program last week, where the two agreed that the ultimate goal of the “homosexual revolution” is to “destroy Christianity.”

Gay marriage, Noebel warned, is going to “affect everything,” pointing out that even before the Supreme Court ruled on marriage equality, children in public schools were learning about the existence of gay people, which he said amounts to “child molestation.”

“They were already down in kindergarten, first, second and third grades teaching the younger innocents,” he said, “And you talk about child molestation. This, to me, was child molestation. When you start teaching first-, second- and third-graders about the glories and wonders of the homosexual lifestyle, you know you’ve got a problem.”

Lamenting that “the Obama administration put a flaming homosexual in charge of a good portion of our public education,” he warned that “this is very serious stuff.”

“The game plan is to destroy Christianity,” he concluded, to Scott’s agreement. “That’s the game plan. Because they contend that Christianity has been very tough on the homosexuals for 2,000 years and now it’s time to get back at the whole thing and show them who’s really boss. So we’re in a very explosive cultural revolution.”

He added that he wasn’t sure if Western civilization could “survive another generation.”

Fifth Circuit Ruling on Texas Voter ID Shows Importance of Preclearance

Texas's voter ID law failed preclearance in 2012 but was implemented anyway after the Shelby County ruling. Today the 5th Circuit ruled it violates the VRA.
PFAW

'They Hate God And Want To Let The Sodomites Queer Our Country'

Shortly after the Supreme Court issued its ruling in favor of marriage equality last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told county clerks in his state that they could opt out of issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

It turns out that in doing so, he had the encouragement of some vocal and influential Religious Right activists in his state, including Steve Hotze of Conservative Republicans of Texas, who wrote to Paxton hours after the court handed down its ruling urging him to ignore the decision by Supreme Court justices who  “hate God and want to let the Sodomites queer our country.”

The Dallas Morning News obtained Hotze’s email through an open records request:

“Greetings in the name of Christ our King!” Hotze wrote Paxton about two hours after the court ruled on June 26.

“Do what the Louisiana AG has done,” Hotze said in an email, urging Paxton to emulate that state’s Republican attorney general who said Louisiana didn’t have to comply because there was no specific line in the court ruling saying so.

“The illegitimate SCOTUS ruling does not name Texas, so fight those lousy bastards,” said Hotze, president of Conservative Republicans of Texas, a group influential in Harris County GOP primaries. “They hate God and want to let the Sodomites queer our country.”

Ted Cruz's Hearing on Supreme Court's Marriage Equality 'Tyranny'

Senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz has repeatedly called recent Supreme Court decisions on marriage and health care reform “tyranny.” On Wednesday, he used his platform as chair of the Senate’s Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts to hold a hearing on “Supreme Court activism” in which he said that the marriage equality ruling was “the very definition of tyranny” and that “Justice Kennedy’s pop psychology has no basis in the text and history of the Constitution.”

Among the witnesses Cruz called was John Eastman, chair of the National Organization for Marriage. Eastman said a simple majority of states should be allowed to override Supreme Court decisions. (While we’re talking about “tyranny,” let’s not forget that Eastman recently defended Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act and hoped for its swift reinstatement.)

Cruz is far from the only right-winger crying “tyranny” over the prospect of gay couples getting married. We have seen right-wing activists and politicians denounce the marriage equality ruling in the most apocalyptic terms, and charge that it will bring unprecedented religious persecution to the U.S. Right-wing Catholic Hugh Brown of the American Life League even said that Justice Kennedy had “betrayed” Jesus. Another, Michael Hichborn of the right-wing Catholic Lepanto Institute, said Kennedy should be excommunicated.

Some have been calling for states to resist or ignore the ruling (Liberty Counsel is defending county clerks who refuse to do their jobs), or negate it with a “creative” law. Some are focused on passing laws to allow government officials and business owners to discriminate against same-sex couples – like the proposed federal First Amendment Defense Act. Some are calling for constitutional amendments to overturn the marriage ruling. And some are looking at the 2016 presidential election as an opportunity to pack the Court with far-right justices.

Cruz has called for a constitutional amendment that would require justices to face retention elections, and has said he would also support term limits on justices, an idea promoted by fellow presidential contender Mike Huckabee.

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