People For the American Way

PFAW Hosts Member Telebriefing on Kennedy Retirement and the Fight to Protect Our Courts

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PFAW Hosts Member Telebriefing on Kennedy Retirement and the Fight to Protect Our Courts
The Supreme Court justices with President Donald Trump

On June 29, following Justice Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court, People For the American Way hosted a member telebriefing about what’s next in the fight to protect our Courts.

PFAW President Michael Keegan began by emphasizing that there is going to be a hard fight ahead, but that the fight is winnable. Keegan underscored that there is a narrow path to victory, but a clear one nonetheless. He reminded members that Trump has repeatedly made clear that he will nominate someone like Justice Gorsuch who is hostile towards civil rights, and who will have a lasting impact on generations of Americans to come.

Marge Baker, PFAW Executive Vice President, said that McConnell is trying to rush the process to have a nominee confirmed ahead of the November elections. She added that although we don’t know exactly who the candidate will be, it is certain that they will be anti-choice and anti-ACA as set forth by Trump’s well-documented litmus test for judicial nominees.

PFAW Vice President of Communications and Research Drew Courtney emphasized that the Supreme Court is a lifetime seat and Trump’s nominee will “echo through generations.” He detailed what exactly is at stake with this vacancy:

  • Kennedy provided the fifth vote in many 5-4 decisions, including in Obergefell v. Hodges, Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, Massachusetts v. EPA, and other critical cases that that advanced civil rights or ensured that the four extreme justices on the Court didn’t push further in their rulings.
  • Some cases that were not brought to the Court by right wing litigators due to Kennedy’s presence on the Court could reappear with a more conservative justice.
  • Many profoundly damaging cases in the past 15 years, such as Janus v. AFSCME and Citizens United v. FEC need to be undone, and Americans need a Supreme Court that will help them.

Baker stressed that the organizing around this nomination is much more powerful than during the fight to fill the Scalia vacancy, because of continued anger at McConnell for denying Merrick Garland a vote and installing arch conservative Neil Gorsuch on the Court with drastic results for the American people and because of the stakes involved in filling this seat. This, coupled with the momentum that is building throughout the progressive movement on a number of fronts makes this a pivotal moment in our country’s history.

She laid out the path to victory for opposing any Trump nominee:

  • It’s important to make clear that the stakes are impossibly high and, given Trump’s clear litmus test, it doesn’t matter who ends up being Trump’s nominee.
  • It only takes two Republicans and all the Democrats to stop a Trump nominee, and that is absolutely doable.
  • Democratic leaders are ready for a fight and they need to galvanize moderate Democrats to win.
  • The fight isn’t won in DC, rather it is won on the ground, in several key states.

Courtney explained what will happen at a state level going forward:

  • “Old school organizing” methods of rallies, media events, phone banking, and door-to-door lobbying
  • Strategic advertising on local radio, television and online new networks to reach people on the ground to hold Senators accountable
  • Pushing the fact that this fight is toxic for the GOP and will ignite outrage that will directly influence the ballot box in November

As we prepare for the fight ahead, Baker reminded us that there is a path to victory and although it isn’t easy, it’s doable. The Courts are there for all of us, not just the powerful and privileged.


Anthony Kennedy, Neil Gorsuch, Protecting the Supreme Court, Supreme Court, telebriefing