People For the American Way

Republicans’ Bizarre Attacks on Circuit Nominee Myrna Pérez

News and Analysis
Republicans’ Bizarre Attacks on Circuit Nominee Myrna Pérez

Even before her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, it was clear that Second Circuit nominee Myrna Pérez is well qualified for the federal bench. Pérez has devoted her career to public service. For the past 15 years, she has done this through her work at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. She leads their nationwide voting litigation, research, and policy advocacy programs, and she teaches voting rights at Columbia Law School. At her hearing, she told the Judiciary Committee why she has dedicated her career to voting rights:

The right to vote keeps us free. It protects us from tyranny. It is preservative of all other rights.

The federal bench needs more judges with her keen understanding of the centrality of the right to vote.

Pérez also spoke about what the Constitution means to her:

I love the Constitution. I love the principles it sets out. I love that under the Constitution, we are all equal under the law, that we all have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I love that we all have the right to free exercise and I am entirely persuaded in the wisdom of the frameworks it sets up. Things like the rule of law; separation of powers; and independent judiciary; and federalism.

Several committee Republicans gave her a hostile reception from the outset and their questioning suggested they were just looking for an excuse to oppose her. As the first Republican senator to speak, Chuck Grassley criticized her for the title of an article she wrote and submitted to Sojourners before her nomination, but which was only published yesterday. The senator was worked up because the headline criticized Republicans, which would not be appropriate for a judicial nominee to do. However, as Pérez herself had already pointed out when she informed the committee about the article’s publication yesterday, the editors at Sojourners wrote the headline without consulting her. In fact, the article itself—the part she actually was responsible for—does not focus on political parties.

Then there was Sen. Josh Hawley, who slammed the judicial nominee for behaving like … a judicial nominee. He tried to get her to criticize past Supreme Court rulings that she had criticized as an advocate. But she did not take the bait, because she is now a judicial nominee who is subject to a different code of conduct and who would perform a completely different function from what she has done before. Instead, she stated she would do her job as a judge and apply the Supreme Court’s cases as precedent. Hawley accused her of not being frank. As Chair Durbin pointed out, Donald Trump’s judicial nominees also routinely declined to criticize Supreme Court precedents, and this did not cost them the support of Republican senators.

Pérez’s recognition of the importance of the right to vote earned her the label of “radical activist” from Sen. Ted Cruz. When she repeated her commitment to put her personal policy preferences aside as a judge, Cruz claimed that her record was “contrary” to that. This effort to attack her integrity failed because it was so transparently illogical. As Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal immediately pointed out when Cruz was finished, Pérez in fact has never been a judge before, so one would not expect her to act as one in her work as an advocate.

Myrna Pérez has dedicated her career to serving the public. She will make an excellent addition to the Second Circuit.


judicial nominations, Lower Federal Courts, Myrna Perez, Second Circuit Court of Appeals