Fair and Just Courts

Activist Toolkit: Stopping Senate Obstruction of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

Even before the President nominated supremely qualified nominees to the DC Circuit, some Senate Republicans had threatened to filibuster the them -- whoever they were, whatever their qualifications.

Phyllis Schlafly Was 'Extremely Offended' and 'Personally Insulted' By DOMA Decision

Eagle Forum founder and anti-gay activist Phyllis Schlafly was “extremely offended” by the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, because of “all the nasty names” she claims the court’s majority called DOMA’s proponents.

Speaking with Steve Deace yesterday, Schlafly said that it was “inappropriate, unprecedented and really nasty” for Justice Anthony Kennedy to find that DOMA’s passage had anything to do with “animus against gays.”

“I feel personally insulted by what Justice Kennedy said,” she added.

Deace: You wrote an interesting reaction to the US Supreme Court, I guess we would call it ‘opinion,’ but it really looked to me, Phyllis, like five justices, and Anthony Kennedy in particular, chose to write what amounts to an anti-Christian polemic disguised as a legal opinion. And it seems like you sort of got the same vibe from what they wrote.
 

Schlafly: Well, I was extremely offended at all the nasty names he called us. I just think it’s so inappropriate, unprecedented and really nasty for the justice to say that the reason DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, was passed, and those who stand up for traditional marriage is that they have animus against gays, they want to deny them equal dignity, that we want to brand them as unworthy, we want to humiliate their children, we have a hateful desire to harm a politically unpopular group. I just think, I feel personally insulted by what Justice Kennedy said. I don’t think that’s true, the idea that anybody who stood up for traditional marriage is guilty of all that hate in his heart is just outrageous.

Later in the interview, the two discussed Hobby Lobby’s suit against the health care law’s mandate that they provide their employees with insurance that includes birth control coverage. Deace claimed that the Obama administration is making “a clear attempt to eradicate the worldview that stands in opposition to statism.”

Schlafly agreed: “Well, I think you’re right, and that’s why I think Obama is definitely trying to make this a totally secular country where you’re not permitted to reference God in anything that anybody else can hear.”

It goes without saying that if the president is trying to eliminate public references to God, he’s doing a very poor job of it.

Deace: Well, and I think you look at something like religious freedom, you’ve got the Obama regime trying to tell companies like Hobby Lobby that your freedom of religion, when you walk into corporate headquarters there at Hobby Lobby, you no longer have the freedom of religion. So you have to do what we tell you to do, even if it violates the moral conscience of your religion, the Bill of Rights ends when you walk into your corporate headquarters. What we see going on in the US Military, for example. We’re seeing unprecedented threats to religious liberty. I know this is something you’ve written about as well. And I think this is a clear attempt to eradicate the worldview that stands in opposition to statism.

Schlafly: Well, I think you’re right, and that’s why I think Obama is definitely trying to make this a totally secular country where you’re not permitted to reference God in anything that anybody else can hear.

Phyllis Schlafly Upset By DC Circuit Nominee's Support for Women's Equality, Of Course

In a WorldNetDaily column today, legendary anti-feminist Phyllis Schafly joins the far-right attacks on Cornelia “Nina” Pillard, one of President Obama’s three nominees to fill vacancies on the influential Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

As Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick has ably explained, the far right’s objection to Pillard is what they see as her excessive support for women’s equality – including “radical” ideas like access to birth control and paid family leave.

So it’s no surprise that Schlafly, who has built a long career out of opposing any and all advances to women’s rights, is now joining the Family Research Council in skewing the record to attack Pillard, whom she calls “a scary feminist” with a trail of “extremist feminist writings”:

Obama not only has the help of the ACLU and similar organizations to pursue anti-religion litigation, but he is determined to appoint many like-minded judges to the federal courts. He recently nominated a scary feminist named Nina Pillard to the important D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Her extremist views include the wild allegation that abortion is necessary to help “free women from historically routine conscription into maternity.” She says that those who oppose Obamacare’s contraception-abortion mandate are really reinforcing “broader patterns of discrimination against women as a class of presumptive breeders.”

Obama would surely like to get supremacist judges to carry out his goals to rewrite the meaning of the First Amendment. We hope there are enough Republicans in the Senate to expose Pillard’s paper trail of extremist feminist writings.

It’s worth mentioning that the woman who Schlafly calls a “scary feminist” has a long history of finding common ground across ideological divides. She worked on the same side as both Bush administrations as a litigator on several major constitutional cases. She also runs Georgetown Law School’s respected Supreme Court Institute, which helps lawyers from around the country in preparing for Supreme Court arguments without regard to which side they represent (including attorneys arguing every single case before the Supreme Court this year). She even led the committee whose research was used by the American Bar Association that found ultra-conservative Justice Samuel Alito “well qualified” for his job.

But Schlafly’s definition of “scary feminist” encompasses just about anyone who supports any sort of legal rights for women. In fact, Schlafly has gone to bat against Pillard before, criticizing two of the nominee’s most widely-hailed victories on behalf of women’s equality: winning the Supreme Court case brought by the George H.W. Bush Administration that opened the Virginia Military Institute to women, and working on the same side as George W. Bush administration lawyers to successfully defend the Family and Medical Leave Act in the courts.

Schlafly, of course, railed against both victories. She charged that the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the FMLA “was based on feminist fantasies about a gender-neutral society” and when the Supreme Court unanimously struck down VMI’s discriminatory admissions procedures, she wrote to the school’s alumni:

The massive government lawsuit against VMI wasn't about "ending sex discrimination" or "allowing women to have access to the same educational benefits that men have at VMI." It was a no-holds-barred fight to feminize VMI waged by the radical feminists and their cohorts in the Federal Government.

Since feminists successfully got women admitted into the military academies, and got the Clinton Administration to assign women to military combat positions, VMI and the Citadel remained as the most visible fortresses of the concept that men and women are fundamentally different. The feminists hate you just because you exist.

Which is to say that if Republican senators decide to adopt Schlafly’s definition of “scary feminist,” they should know that it includes not only the basic defense of reproductive rights, but also support for laws that allow women to work outside the home while raising children and the belief that public institutions shouldn’t discriminate on the basis of sex.
 

Tell the GOP: Yes or No Votes for Obama’s DC Circuit Nominees!

Now that we’re well into President Obama’s fifth year in office, there are no prizes for guessing what the GOP’s response is to a diverse slate of nominees to the critical DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

Obstruct. Obstruct. Obstruct.

Even before they were nominated, Republican Senators were laying the groundwork to block anyone nominated to the circuit. Now that President Obama has nominated three unquestionably qualified jurists with broad support from across the ideological spectrum…Republican leaders are still intent on denying them simple yes-or-no votes.

We’ve created a simple graphic to share on Facebook to let Republicans know you’re watching how they treat this diverse set of nominees. Click here to share.


PFAW

GOP Puts Politics Above Governance at First DC Circuit Committee Vote

Committee Republicans recycle their old caseload argument to justify a party-line vote against the first of three DC Circuit nominees.
PFAW

Large and Diverse Group Urges Senators Not to Block DC Circuit Votes

Nearly 100 organizations send a letter calling for senators to allow votes on all three DC Circuit nominees.
PFAW

The GOP War on Women: Judicial Edition

Earlier this year, President Obama nominated three brilliant jurists to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, the court that many people call “the second most important court in the nation.” It probably comes as no surprise that Republicans have already started laying the groundwork to obstruct their confirmation.
PFAW

Grassley's Own DC Circuit Numbers Fail Him

Even under Sen. Grassley's definition of caseload, his argument against filling DC Circuit vacancies falls apart.
PFAW

New Data Shows DC Circuit Caseload Continues to Rise

New statistics poke another hole in the GOP's assertion that the DC Circuit's three vacancies should remain unfilled.
PFAW

Flashback: When Republicans Thought It Was Okay For Judicial Nominees to Have Opinions

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee spent yesterday’s confirmation hearing on D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Nina Pillard harping on two points: first, that they think the D.C. Circuit doesn’t need its three vacancies filled, and second, that they think Pillard’s arguments as an academic mean she would disregard the law as a judge.

As it happens, when George W. Bush was the one nominating federal judges, the very same senators held the exact opposite view on both of these issues.

As People For the American Way has extensively shown, the argument that the D.C. Circuit doesn’t need judges holds no water – in fact, Bush nominees Thomas Griffith and John Roberts (now Chief Justice) were confirmed to the D.C. Circuit when each active judge’s caseload was significantly lower than it is today. 

And Republican attacks on Pillard’s academic writings also directly contradict their previous statements on Bush nominees with academic records. As Pillard noted in her hearing, "Academics are paid to test the boundaries and look at the implications of things. As a judge, I would apply established law of the U.S. Supreme Court and the D.C. Circuit."

Just a few years ago, Republican senators agreed. On the nomination of Tenth Circuit judge Michael McConnell, who took a number of far-right stands as an academic, including disagreeing with a Supreme Court decision declaring that a university ban on interracial dating constituted racial discrimination, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said, “The diversity of backgrounds and points of view are often the stitches holding together the fabric of our freedoms.”

“Surely, we can’t vote for or against a nominee on whether they agree with us on any number of a host of moral and religious issues, ” Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said of Eleventh Circuit nominee William Pryor, a far-right culture warrior who was outspoken in opposition to gay rights, women’s rights and the separation of church and state.

Then-Sen. Jim Demint defended D.C. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown, one of the most outspoken conservative ideologues on the federal bench today, by saying, “A person with strong beliefs and personal convictions should not be barred from being a judge. In fact, I would rather have an honest liberal serve as a judge than one who has been neutered by fear of public opinion.”

And before the Senate confirmed Arkansas District Court Judge J. Leon Holmes, who used Todd Akin’s line about pregnancy from rape before Todd Akin did, Hatch told concerned colleagues,  “This man is a very religious man who has made it more than clear that he will abide by the law even when he differs with it.”

These Bush nominees held positions that were clearly far out of the mainstream, yet Senate Republicans demanded and got yes-or-no confirmation votes on them, helping Bush to shift the federal judiciary far to the right.

What some Judiciary Committee Republicans objected to at yesterday’s hearings is what they apparently see as Pillard’s excessive support for women’s equality, both as an attorney and an academic. Pillard won the Supreme Court case opening the Virginia Military Institute to women and worked with Bush administration officials to successfully defend the Family and Medical Leave Act.  She has strongly defended reproductive rights and criticized abstinence-only education that sends different messages to boys and girls. It’s this record that  her Republican opponents have distorted beyond recognition.

By any measure, Pillard is well within the mainstream, and has made it very clear that she understands that the role of a judge is to apply existing law regardless of one’s personal views. But while Senate Republicans made plenty of excuses for Bush nominees who were far outside the mainstream, they are accusing Pillard of being just too much of a women's rights supporter to fairly apply the law.

PFAW

Flashback: When Republicans Thought It Was Okay For Judicial Nominees to Have Opinions

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee spent yesterday’s confirmation hearing on D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Nina Pillard harping on two points: first, that they think the D.C. Circuit doesn’t need its three vacancies filled, and second, that they think Pillard’s arguments as an academic mean she would disregard the law as a judge.

As it happens, when George W. Bush was the one nominating federal judges, the very same senators held the exact opposite view on both of these issues.

As People For the American Way has extensively shown, the argument that the D.C. Circuit doesn’t need judges holds no water – in fact, Bush nominees Thomas Griffith and John Roberts (now Chief Justice) were confirmed to the D.C. Circuit when each active judge’s caseload was significantly lower than it is today. 

And Republican attacks on Pillard’s academic writings also directly contradict their previous statements on Bush nominees with academic records. As Pillard noted in her hearing, "Academics are paid to test the boundaries and look at the implications of things. As a judge, I would apply established law of the U.S. Supreme Court and the D.C. Circuit."

Just a few years ago, Republican senators agreed. On the nomination of Tenth Circuit judge Michael McConnell, who took a number of far-right stands as an academic, including disagreeing with a Supreme Court decision declaring that a university ban on interracial dating constituted racial discrimination, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said, “The diversity of backgrounds and points of view are often the stitches holding together the fabric of our freedoms.”

“Surely, we can’t vote for or against a nominee on whether they agree with us on any number of a host of moral and religious issues, ” Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said of Eleventh Circuit nominee William Pryor, a far-right culture warrior who was outspoken in opposition to gay rights, women’s rights and the separation of church and state.

Then-Sen. Jim Demint defended D.C. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown, one of the most outspoken conservative ideologues on the federal bench today, by saying, “A person with strong beliefs and personal convictions should not be barred from being a judge. In fact, I would rather have an honest liberal serve as a judge than one who has been neutered by fear of public opinion.”

And before the Senate confirmed Arkansas District Court Judge J. Leon Holmes, who used Todd Akin’s line about pregnancy from rape before Todd Akin did, Hatch told concerned colleagues,  “This man is a very religious man who has made it more than clear that he will abide by the law even when he differs with it.”

These Bush nominees held positions that were clearly far out of the mainstream, yet Senate Republicans demanded and got yes-or-no confirmation votes on them, helping Bush to shift the federal judiciary far to the right.

What some Judiciary Committee Republicans objected to at yesterday’s hearings is what they apparently see as Pillard’s excessive support for women’s equality, both as an attorney and an academic. Pillard won the Supreme Court case opening the Virginia Military Institute to women and worked with Bush administration officials to successfully defend the Family and Medical Leave Act.  She has strongly defended reproductive rights and criticized abstinence-only education that sends different messages to boys and girls. It’s this record that  her Republican opponents have distorted beyond recognition.

By any measure, Pillard is well within the mainstream, and has made it very clear that she understands that the role of a judge is to apply existing law regardless of one’s personal views. But while Senate Republicans made plenty of excuses for Bush nominees who were far outside the mainstream, they are accusing Pillard of being just too much of a women's rights supporter to fairly apply the law.

Grassley Cites Anonymous Comments to Justify Rigging DC Circuit

The Judiciary Committee's senior Republican embarrasses himself and degrades the Senate with his latest stunt.
PFAW

Ted Cruz Distorts and Ignores Nina Pillard's Actual Record

The far right is distorting what DC Circuit nominee Nina Pillard has written and said.
PFAW

Setting The Record Straight: DC Circuit Court Nominee Nina Pillard Is A Fair and Unbiased Candidate

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Cornelia “Nina” T.L. Pillard to the influential Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Pillard is one of President Obama's three nominees to fill vacancies on the court, which is currently operating with nearly one-third of its seats empty.

Pillard is a fair-minded, nationally recognized law professor and experienced appellate lawyer with an extraordinary record of service. She has won historic Supreme Court victories:  she opened one of the last male-only public colleges to women, and protected the Family and Medical Leave Act. She has served two tours as a high-level government lawyer and is currently a distinguished and beloved professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Her expertise in appellate litigation led to her appointment as a co-director of Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute, which assists lawyers from around the country in preparing for Supreme Court arguments, without regard to which side they represent. Her record demonstrates her superb character, judgment, and fundamental commitment to upholding the principles of our Constitution and laws.

Right-wing bloggers are already making nasty and untrue attacks on Professor Pillard, but here are the facts:

The National Review Online cited unnamed sources in a blog calling Professor Pillard a “complete ideologue.” In reality, Professor Pillard is a fair-minded, highly accomplished litigator with broad experience and an outstanding reputation for public service. She has litigated major constitutional cases brought or defended by Republican Administrations, and Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican presidents have often written the majority opinions agreeing with Professor Pillard’s legal arguments. And prominent officials in Republican-appointed officials are supporting her nomination.

FACT:  Because of Pillard’s unbiased approach to the law, which has earned her the respect of her colleagues, she was asked to chair an American Bar Association Reading Committee that evaluated Judge Samuel Alito’s qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court. Her committee’s evaluation led to the ABA rating Alito “well qualified."

  • The Reading Committee reviewed all of the legal writings of then-Judge Samuel Alito for purposes of evaluating his nomination to the Supreme Court. Armed with the review by Professor Pillard’s committee, the Standing Committee unanimously gave Judge Alito its highest rating of “Well Qualified.”   

FACT:  Pillard serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Arbitration Association, the world’s largest alternative dispute resolution provider. 

  • At the American Arbitration Association, Pillard has worked with corporate general counsels and business leaders to advance the Association’s private arbitration services and mission.  Arbitration is a process favored by many businesses for resolving disputes without the cost and delay of litigation.

FACT:  Pillard has a long track record of fair and unbiased work, including litigating major constitutional cases brought or defended by Republican Administrations. And Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican presidents have often written the majority opinions agreeing with her legal arguments.   

  • Over the past 15 years, Professor Pillard has distinguished herself as a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, where she both teaches and serves as a Co-Director of the Supreme Court Institute, preparing lawyers for argument on a pro bono, first-come basis to all lawyers who seek assistance. Over the past term, the Supreme Court Institute prepared lawyers on one or both sides of every case heard by the Supreme Court. 
  • Professor Pillard argued the Supreme Court case Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs alongside DOJ officials in the George W. Bush administration. Together, their defense of the Family and Medical Leave Act successfully vindicated a state employee’s right to take unpaid leave to care for his ill wife. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the majority opinion, siding with Professor Pillard’s argument.
  • In United States v. Virginia, a case filed by the George H.W. Bush administration, Professor Pillard wrote the briefs that persuaded the Supreme Court to open the Virginia Military Institute to women, ending one of the last state college male-only admissions policies in the country.
  • In Ornelas v. United States, Professor Pillard argued that reasonable suspicion and probable cause – the defining standards for police searches and seizures – require independent review in appellate courts to clarify and control the legal rules, unify precedent, and afford law enforcement clear guidance as to when searches are appropriate.  In an opinion written by Chief Justice Rehnquist, the Supreme Court agreed with Professor Pillard’s legal arguments. 
  • In Behrens v. Pelletier, Professor Pillard won a critical victory ensuring that local, state, and federal government officials can defend themselves adequately when sued. In an opinion by Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court agreed with the position articulated by Professor Pillard.   

FACT: President George W. Bush’s Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh signed a letter of support for Professor Pillard citing her unbiased approach to the law.

  • Professor Pillard “is exceptionally bright, a patient and unbiased listener, and a lawyer of great judgment and unquestioned integrity. We certainly do not agree on the merits of every issue, but Nina has always been fair, reasonable, and sensible in her judgments. She approaches faculty hiring, teaching and curriculum, and matters of faculty governance on their merits, without any ideological agenda--at times even against the tide of academic popularity to defend and respect different views and different types of people.

The Family Research Council has attacked Professor Pillard, claiming she has radical liberal ideas on abortion, motherhood and abstinence only education.

The FRC wrongly attributed a quote to Professor Pillard which was actually a quote belonging to former Chief Justice Rehnquist.

  •  FRC’s Email stated: “A mother of two, Nina wrote a 2011 paper, "Against the New Maternalism," which argues that by celebrating motherhood, society is creating a "self-fulfilling cycle of discrimination."
  •  In Professor Pillard’s Article, she is quoting the majority opinion in the Hibbs case, written by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist: “Providing men with family leave, the Hibbs court reasoned, would help to change underlying gendered patterns of family care and thereby help to counteract “a self-fulfilling cycle of discrimination” – a cycle that “fostered employers’ stereotypical views about women’s [lack of] commitment to work and their [lesser] value as employees,” as well as “parallel stereotypes” of men’s overriding workplace commitment that routinely obstruct men’s equal access to family benefits that could encourage them to spend more time parenting. The radical implication of Hibbs is that we cannot end sex discrimination outside the home without changing our beliefs about women’s and men’s differential attachments to family care within it, and we cannot change those beliefs without actually shifting the allocation of care work within the family.” (Pillard, Against the New Maternalism, p. 231)
  • Additional reference to the original Rehnquist Quote: “But in a broadly worded opinion, Rehnquist said Tuesday that Congress and the courts could use stronger standards to fight sex discrimination. He detailed the long history of discriminatory leave policies and the rationale for the family leave law, which guarantees employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for family members… Before the law, he wrote, leave policies were grounded in "stereotypes about women's domestic roles" and "parallel stereotypes presuming a lack of domestic responsibilities for men." Those "mutually reinforcing stereotypes," Rehnquist noted, created a "self- fulfilling cycle of discrimination" that forced women to maintain the role of primary family caregiver.” (Court bolsters family leave, Chicago Tribune, 05/03)

The Family Research Council wrongly accuses Professor Pillard of broadly claiming that abstinence only education is unconstitutional, saying, “Pillard is so fiercely opposed to abstinence education that she has said publicly she would declare it unconstitutional.”

  • Nina Pillard: “I do not here take a position on the abstinence message itself, beyond arguing that it must not be embedded with sexual stereotypes or discriminatorily applied to women and not men.” (Pillard, Our Other Reproductive Choices, p. 962)
  • Professor Pillard does not oppose abstinence-only education. Rather, she has written that sex education, whether it advocates abstinence or not, should treat boys and girls equally and avoid sex-role stereotypes, in the interest of promoting equal responsibility on the part of both boys and girls.

The FRC claimed that Professor Pillard has ‘extreme pro-abortion’ views when in fact Professor Pillard’s academic writing on abortion seeks ways to bridge the gap between abortion rights advocates and opponents by finding common ground for ways to reduce reliance on abortion.

  • “All of these visions of sex equality and reproductive rights are ones that can be shared by people whether they view themselves as pro-life or pro-choice. If society were willing to recognize the demands of equality in these three areas, there might well be less need for abortion. Filling out the reproductive rights agenda with measures that make abortion less necessary is one way to seek progress, notwithstanding legal and cultural conflict about abortion itself.”  (Pillard, Our Other Reproductive Choices, p. 990)
  • Professor Pillard’s academic writings show her openness to viewpoints raised by abortion rights opponents: Professor Pillard consulted respected anti-abortion advocate Helen Alvaré in writing her article ‘Other Reproductive Choices’ to ensure her work considered all sides of the public debate on women’s reproductive health. In fact, Professor Alvaré is listed in the article’s acknowledgements.
  • “Feminists for Life (FFL), a nonprofit organization declaring itself in favor of equality for women and against abortion, makes some claims that resonate with those of some pro-choice feminists, and which should be common ground in the reproductive rights battles.” (Pillard, Our Other Reproductive Choices, p. 981)
     

Sen. Hatch Misleads 'This Week' About His Role in Judicial Filibusters

On ABC News’ “This Week” yesterday, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah claimed that he takes the “principled position” of voting against filibusters of judicial nominees:

And matter of fact, I continue to vote against filibusters with regard to judicial nominations because I think it's a principled position. I actually think the president, whoever the president may be ought to have the full choice of who they put on the bench.

And unless there's just some overwhelming reason why somebody should never be on the bench.

But on many pivotal votes to break GOP filibusters of President Obama’s federal judicial nominees, Sen. Hatch hasn’t voted “against” the filibuster. Instead, he’s made a habit of voting “present” or not voting at all. Because a motion to break a filibuster requires 60 affirmative “yes” votes to succeed, not voting or voting “present” in effect supports the continuation of the filibuster.

Hatch voted “present” on efforts to break Republican filibusters of Obama judicial nominees Caitlin Halligan, Goodwin Liu, Jack McConnell and Robert Bacharach. He did not vote at all in cloture votes on nominee Andrew Hurwitz and in the second cloture vote on Halligan.

These votes allow Hatch to say he didn’t support a filibuster, while in fact voting to do just that. And he certainly didn’t take a “principled position” to vote “against” his Republican colleagues’ obstruction.

PFAW

Deconstructing Ted Cruz’s DC Circuit Grandstanding

The Senate Judiciary Committee today held a hearing for the first of President Obama’s three recent nominees to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, attorney Patricia Ann Millett. Republican committee members, having no actual objections to Millett’s qualifications, used the opportunity to grandstand about what they see as the enormous injustice of a Democratic president nominating people to open seats on the federal judiciary.

Chief among the grandstanders, of course, was Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who spent most of his time telling Millett that Republican opposition to her nomination has nothing to do with her and has everything to do with President Obama’s supposed effort to “pack” the DC Circuit.

Very little of what he said had any basis in reality. He started out by claiming that the DC Circuit is currently “evenly divided” between Democratic and Republican nominees  and that President Obama and Democrats are now trying to “pack the court” with Obama’s nominees:

Right now, the DC Circuit is evenly divided among active judges, with four Republicans and four Democrats. And you find yourself one of three nominees from the president. The president and senior Democrats on this committee have made clear that they want to pick a fight on the DC Circuit. They want to pick a fight on the DC Circuit, and unfortunately I believe part of this pressure, part of the effort of stopping qualified Republican nominees and then deciding to pick a fight now, is a desire to pack the court.

While it’s true that there are currently four Democratic nominees and four Republican nominees in active service on the court, Cruz obscures the fact that the court has an active backbench of six senior judges – five of whom are Republican nominees:

This imbalance exists because Republican presidents have nominated the bulk of DC Circuit judges in the past three decades -- 15 of the last 19 confirmed to the DC Circuit were nominated by Republicans. Far from “packing” the court, President Obama has had fewer judges confirmed to the DC Circuit than any of his four most recent predecessors.

Cruz continued, insisting that President Obama is trying to “pack” the court because it is “holding this administration accountable, and in particular, holding rule-making accountable that has been contrary to federal law”:

The DC Circuit has been a court that has been holding this administration accountable, and in particular, holding rule-making accountable that has been contrary to federal law. And I believe that there is an activist base that is pressuring the president, that has been pressuring senior Senate Democrats to get judicial nominees on the DC Circuit to protect the regulations coming from this administration. And I think any effort to pack the court because the administration doesn’t like the outcomes of judges applying the law fairly should be decried.

What Cruz is referring to is the fact that the D.C. Circuit is currently dominated by right-wing Republican nominees, who have delved into far-right legal theory to strike down common-sense protections for workers, consumers and voters – you can read about some of their most appalling decisions here. President Obama is not trying to “pack” the court to get the decisions that he wants, as Cruz alleges. Instead, he is using his mandate from American voters to pick judges who will restore some ideological balance to one of the farthest-right courts in the country.

Finally, Cruz declares that his objections to Millett have nothing to do with her “very fine professional qualifications” and instead have to do with too much “partisan politics” in judicial confirmations – partisan politics which he seems to have very little interest in putting aside.

Because I think  partisan politics has driven this committee’s approach to the DC Circuit for over a decade. And I think that’s unfortunate, I would rather see a situation where able judges are confirmed irrespective of that. But it is not consistent with our responsibility to let one party prevent qualified judges from going to the court, and at the same time to enable packing the court to reach preferred outcomes. So I thank you for being here, and I think it’s regrettable, the overall context of this dispute, which as I said is irrespective of your very fine professional qualifications.

So, Cruz is refusing to support Millett, who he thinks is unquestionably qualified for the job, for purely political reasons… because he thinks the judicial nominations process has become too politicized.
 

PFAW

Emergency Petition to Save the Voting Rights Act

Last year, the Supreme Court severely weakened the Voting Rights Act & voter suppression laws were passed across the country. This year, we need to fix that. Add your name to the fight and tell Congress to act without delay to strengthen the Voting Rights Act!

New Poll Shows Support for Marriage Equality, Affirmative Action, and Voting Rights – But Not the Supreme Court

In the wake of last week’s Supreme Court rulings on critical civil rights issues, a new poll finds increasing support for marriage equality and falling support for the high court itself. 

A national Princeton Survey Research Associates poll found that 55 percent of Americans think that marriages of same-sex couples should be legally recognized – the highest level of support ever.  A similar percentage (53 percent) believe that affirmative action programs are needed, and more Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act (49 percent) than support it (40 percent).  In other words, the American people are not on board with the Supreme Court turning back the clock on our civil rights.

So it is not surprising that Supreme Court approval ratings are falling.  The Princeton poll found the lowest level of approval (43 percent) in eight years, with slightly more Americans disapproving of the way the court is doing its job (44 percent).  Similarly, a Rasmussen poll released yesterday found that the percentage of likely voters who think the Supreme Court is doing a poor job is rising. 

What is more surprising is that both polls show that a greater percentage of Americans still believe that the high court is “too liberal” than believe it is “too conservative.” As PFAW President Michael Keegan pointed out in May, this is no accident:

“In recent decades, right-wing leaders have worked in popular culture to attack the courts as a liberal peril while successfully organizing to dominate and control legal institutions to create courts that no longer look out for the rights of all Americans. They have set up law schools and legal societies to promote corporate and right-wing commitments, have promoted the appointment of reactionary judges and Justices, blocked the appointment of even moderate jurists, and defined a legal agenda that subordinates individual rights to government power and public regulation to corporate power. Right-wing success in remaking the judiciary in the image of the Republican Party has not led conservatives to curb their bitter attack on ‘liberal judicial activism,’ a fantasy that is several decades out of date but indispensable to this smoke-and-mirrors operation.”

While conservatives continue to crow about “liberal judicial activism,” the American people are realizing that the Supreme Court’s conservative rulings on issues like voting rights and the rights of workers and consumers do not reflect their beliefs or the nation’s core constitutional values. 
 

PFAW

Oregon Becomes 16th State to Join the Fight Against Citizens United

Following the approval of House Joint Memorial 6 by a 17-13 vote in the Oregon Senate today, Oregon became the 16th state to call for an amendment to the Constitution overturning the 2010 Citizens United decision and related cases.

The passage of HJM6, first introduced in January by Representative Brian Clem, is the result of a grassroots mobilization effort by the people of Oregon. In 2012 alone, 12 Oregon cities and counties passed local resolutions urging state and federal legislators to call for a constitutional amendment taking back our democracy from corporations and special interests. The mobilization at the state level was led by Oregonians for Restoring Constitutional Democracy, a coalition that gathered signatures and endorsements in support of HJM6.

The joint memorial urges Congress to propose a constitutional amendment “clarifying the distinction between the rights of natural persons and the rights of corporations” and recognizing “that Congress and state legislatures may regulate all moneys raised and spent for political purposes.”

Rep. Jules Bailey, speaking to the Oregon House last week, urged his fellow representatives to support the measure, saying, “When we confuse the monolith with the individual, then a piece of our humanity dies. Let us ask Congress to undo this mistake.” The measure passed the House by a vote of 48-11 on June 21st before being sent to the Senate.

With each additional state joining the movement to overturn Citizens United and related decisions, the will of the American people becomes clearer. We will not let our elections be bought and sold. We will not let corporate power subvert the will of the people.

PFAW
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