WASHINGTON, D.C. – People For the American Way today issued the following statement from PFAW Senior Legislative Counsel Paul Gordon after the Senate voted to advance the nomination of Howard C. Nielson for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah.
“At his hearing, Howard Nielson did nothing to assuage concerns about his extremism and contempt for the rule of law. His record makes clear how unmistakably unfit he is for a lifetime position on the federal bench, yet Senate Republicans rubber-stamped his nomination today on the Senate floor.
“As an attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel under George W. Bush’s administration, Nielson helped give legal cover for the administration’s unlawful treatment of suspected terrorists and worked on the infamous “torture memos” that were later revoked by the Department of Justice. He has also argued that the judge hearing a marriage equality case should have recused himself because he was gay.
“Nielson also played a role in the Bush-era Justice Department’s notorious political hiring scandal. This scheme was toxic to democracy and generated a scathing report by DOJ’s inspector general warning that Nielson and the others involved ‘should never get a job with the Department or, in my view, any other Federal agency.’ It is hard to imagine a starker warning against confirming someone to a lifetime position as a federal judge.
“In ordinary times, Nielson would never have been nominated, let alone confirmed. But today’s vote reminds us that these are not ordinary times. Republican senators should be held accountable by their constituents, since their own consciences are not doing the job.”
People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.