Do you need a reason to get off your couch and head to the polls this fall to cast your vote for Catherine Cortez Masto for U.S. Senate? Well here’s a good one:
Mitch McConnell told Fox News that he believes the NRA must approve of our next US Supreme Court justice nominee to receive any consideration by a Republican Senate. The NRA disapproves of Judge Garland’s nomination, therefore, the current Republican majority will not allow his nomination to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote on confirmation.
This utter nonsense has to end. We need to take the Senate back! To do that, we need to make sure that Catherine Cortez Masto is elected to replace retiring Senator Harry Reid. We cannot allow Republican Joe Heck to become Nevada’s next Senator and allow him to rubber stamp replacement of potentially FOUR retiring Supreme Court justices with “Scalia clones.”
According to the Washington Post, the White House is considering six candidates for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia: federal appeals court judges Sri Srinivasan, Jane Kelly, Merrick Garland, Paul Watford, and Patricia Millett, along with district judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Judge Sri Srinivasan
Judge Sri Srinivasan offers the conventional mix of youth, experience, and credentials that presidents often look for when selecting a Supreme Court nominee. A judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, a court that is widely considered the second most powerful in the nation, Srinivasan was confirmed to this job by a 97-0 vote. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, served as the principal deputy to Solicitor General Don Verrilli, and argued more than two dozens cases in the Supreme Court before his own elevation to the bench.
The case challenging the Clean Power Plan remains ongoing, however, and it is still pending before the panel that includes Judge Srinivasan. Thus, nominating Srinivasan presents some risk for the president because it could lead to a different judge being swapped in to hear this case. Should Srinivasan be confirmed to the Supreme Court, he would also need to recuse from the case because he already ruled on the request to temporarily halt the Plan as a circuit judge. Some of the White House’s liberal allies have also expressed concerns about Srinivasan’s record prior to becoming a judge; his past clients include ExxonMobil and former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling.
Judge Jane Kelly
By the ultra-elite standards of the very top echelons of the legal profession, Judge Jane Kelly does not have the same eye-popping credentials as Srinivasan. After graduating with honors from Harvard Law, Kelly clerked for a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, but never for a Supreme Court justice. While Srinivasan made a name for himself in DC as one of the nation’s top Supreme Court litigators, Kelly toiled in relative obscurity in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Dismissing Kelly’s credentials because they do not match up with Srinivasan’s, however, is a bit like labeling Wonder Woman a weakling because she does not pack quite as much of a punch as Superman. Elite law firms currently offer a signing bonus of up to $75,000 for recent law graduates fresh out of a federal circuit clerkship, and that’s in addition to a starting salary in the mid-to-high $100,000s. So Kelly could have enjoyed a very lavish life in a prestigious legal practice.
A Kelly nomination could also embarrass Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who has thus far refused to consider anyone that President Obama names to fill Scalia’s seat. Grassley praised her nomination to the Eighth Circuit, quoting a friend of his on the federal bench who praised her “exceptionally keen intellect” and concluded that “she will be a welcomed addition to the Court if confirmed.” If Kelly is the nominee, expect videos like this one, where Grassley urges his colleagues to confirm her, to become a stable of cable news coverage of the nomination:
Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the DC Circuit is the sort of nominee that Obama and Senate Republicans might agree to elevate to the Supreme Court as a compromise, if compromise is actually possible with the current Senate majority. Garland, who President Clinton appointed to the DC Circuit in 1997, is far and away the oldest candidate among the four the White House is reportedly vetting — he’s 63. In nearly two decades on the bench, Garland has also built a fairly centrist record.
Like the much younger Srinivasan, Garland’s resume is laden with the kind of credentials that make mere mortal attorneys droll with envy — including a clerkship for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan and a senior Justice Department job prior to Garland’s elevation to the bench. On most issues, moreover, is is likely that Garland would side with the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc in divided cases.
Nevertheless, there are a few areas where his instincts appear more conservative. In 2003, Garland joined an opinion holding that the federal judiciary lacks the authority, “to assert habeas corpus jurisdiction at the behest of an alien held at a military base leased from another nation, a military base outside the sovereignty of the United States,” effectively prohibiting Guantanamo Bay detainees from seeking relief in civilian courts. The Supreme Court reversed this decision a little over a year later in Rasul v. Bush. (Though, it is worth noting that legal expertsdisagree about whether the result Garland supported was compelled by then-existing precedents.)
Garland also appears to have relatively conservative instincts in criminal justice cases. According to a 2010 examination of Garland’s decision by SCOTUSBlog’s Thomas Goldstein, “Judge Garland rarely votes in favor of criminal defendants’ appeals of their convictions.” Goldstein “identified only eight such published rulings,” as well as an additional seven where “he voted to reverse the defendant’s sentence in whole or in part, or to permit the defendant to raise a argument relating to sentencing on remand,” during the 13 years Garland had then spent as a federal judge.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia is the only federal trial judge among the six mentioned by the Washington Post. At 45, she is also the youngest, Jackson’s resume includes several years of private practice, service on the United States Sentencing Commission, and work as a public defender. She clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.Jackson’s current status as a trial judge could prove to be both a blessing and a curse if she is Obama’s nominee. On the one hand, appellate judgeships are considered to be more prestigious than trial judgeships. The Supreme Court is also an appellate court, so a judge with experience at the appellate level is likely to be more used to the kind of work that goes into being a justice. That said, nearly all of the cases heard by the Supreme Court began in trial courts, and they can often turn upon procedural motions, fact-finding and other matters that occurred at the trial level. Currently, the only sitting justice with experience as a trial judge is Justice Sonia Sotomayor, so Jackson would bring an underrepresented perspective to the nation’s highest Court.
According to the Washington Post, the White House is focusing on potential nominees “with scant discernible ideology and limited judicial records as part of a strategy to surmount fierce Republican opposition.” Jackson, however, does have some opinions that are likely to fuel Republican opposition if she is nominated. In Rothe Development v. Department of Defense, Jackson rejected a challenge to a program that provides “technological, financial, and practical assistance, as well as support through preferential awards of government contracts” to companies that are designated as “small disadvantaged businesses.” One of the criteria used to determine if a business qualifies for this designation is whether a majority owner of the business belongs to a racial minority group. Though Jackson’s opinion upholding this limited consideration of race in government contracting closely tracks a 2012 decision by another judge of her court, which rejected a “nearly identical” challenge, it is likely that Rothe Development will play a starring role in conservative attack ads should Jackson be the nominee.
Additionally, Jackson denied a request by the website Gawker that tried to “force former Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines to explain why he had work-related emails in a private account.” Although her decision merely concluded that the request was “premature,” and not that it could not succeed at a later date, it is unlikely that conservative attack groups will dwell on that nuance if Jackson is the nominee.
Judge Paul Watford
ThinkProgress previously described Judge Paul Watford as a “conventional superqualified nominee.” A former law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Watford joined the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2012, after spending a few years as a federal prosecutor and then becoming a partner in a large law firm.Watford, however, had a somewhat more rocky confirmation process than Srinivasan and Kelly — a fact that may stem from Watford being one of only a handful of judicial nominees President Obama named in his first term who fit the conventional profile for a future Supreme Court justice. Grassley, in particular, objected to a few amicus briefs Watford wrote while still in private practice, including a brief opposing Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB 1070, and another one filed on behalf of groups opposed to Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol. Judge Watford was eventually confirmed by a 61-34 vote.
Like Srinivasan, Judge Patricia Millett was among the nation’s top Supreme Court advocates prior to her appointment to the DC Circuit — arguing 32 cases during her time as an attorney in the Solicitor General’s office and later in private practice. Prior to becoming a judge, she alsoserved on the board of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a civil rights organization in Washington, DC. During her confirmation to the DC Circuit, one of the most active lobbying groups working on her behalf was a network of lawyers who are also military spouses. Millett’s husband served in the Navy, and they met at a church event while he was stationed at the Pentagon and were later married in the same church.Under normal circumstances, a Millett nomination would be a considerable olive branch extended toward Senate Republicans. Among other things, Millett once defended the conservative Roberts Court’s record in business cases during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that the justices “show[ed] a fair amount of balance in the business area” during a previous term. In just over two years on the DC Circuit, she’s authored just over two dozen majority opinions, none of which are particularly ideological
(The president’s opponents may complain about an opinion rejecting a challenge to various aspects of the Affordable Care Act and its implementation, but that lawsuit received little backing from interest groups that have otherwise been eager to support suits against Obamacare that have even a small chance of prevailing. Judge Millett’s opinion in that case was also joined by a conservative George H.W. Bush appointee.)
Millett, however, was also the very first judge confirmed after Senate Democrats invoked the so-called “nuclear option” to allow lower court nominations to be confirmed by a simple majority vote. This maneuver, which effectively shut down Senate Republican efforts to maintain ideological control over the nation’s second most powerful court, remains a sore spot among Senate Republicans. If Millett is the nominee, it is likely that many senators will take their frustrations with this rules change out on the judge.
A Responsibility I Take Seriously
— by President Barack Obama
The Constitution vests in the President the power to appoint judges to the Supreme Court. It’s a duty that I take seriously, and one that I will fulfill in the weeks ahead.
It’s also one of the most important decisions that a President will make. Rulings handed down by the Supreme Court directly affect our economy, our security, our rights, and our daily lives.
Needless to say, this isn’t something I take lightly. It’s a decision to which I devote considerable time, deep reflection, careful deliberation, and serious consultation with legal experts, members of both political parties, and people across the political spectrum. And with thanks to SCOTUSblog for allowing me to guest post today, I thought I’d share some spoiler-free insights into what I think about before appointing the person who will be our next Supreme Court Justice.
First and foremost, the person I appoint will be eminently qualified. He or she will have an independent mind, rigorous intellect, impeccable credentials, and a record of excellence and integrity. I’m looking for a mastery of the law, with an ability to hone in on the key issues before the Court, and provide clear answers to complex legal questions.
Second, the person I appoint will be someone who recognizes the limits of the judiciary’s role; who understands that a judge’s job is to interpret the law, not make the law. I seek judges who approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice, a respect for precedent, and a determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand.
But I’m also mindful that there will be cases that reach the Supreme Court in which the law is not clear. There will be cases in which a judge’s analysis necessarily will be shaped by his or her own perspective, ethics, and judgment. That’s why the third quality I seek in a judge is a keen understanding that justice is not about abstract legal theory, nor some footnote in a dusty casebook. It’s the kind of life experience earned outside the classroom and the courtroom; experience that suggests he or she views the law not only as an intellectual exercise, but also grasps the way it affects the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy, and in rapidly changing times. That, I believe, is an essential element for arriving at just decisions and fair outcomes.
A sterling record. A deep respect for the judiciary’s role. An understanding of the way the world really works. That’s what I’m considering as I fulfill my constitutional duty to appoint a judge to our highest court. And as Senators prepare to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to consider the person I appoint, I hope they’ll move quickly to debate and then confirm this nominee so that the Court can continue to serve the American people at full strength.
Today, I’m nominating someone to be our new Librarian of Congress — the leader of one of our nation’s oldest federal institutions — and I want to introduce you to her.
Meet Dr. Carla Hayden.
Michelle and I have known Dr. Hayden for a long time since her days working at the Chicago Public Library, and her dedication to learning and education is unparalleled.
More recently, she’s devoted her career to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today’s digital culture. She’s been hard at work revitalizing Baltimore’s library system as the CEO of Enoch Pratt Free Library, updating its technology and raising money to fund essential improvements. Under her leadership, the Pratt library has become the largest provider of public-access computers in Maryland.
As Librarian of Congress, she’ll work in close partnership with Congress, support the copyright office that serves our nation’s creative communities, and explore new ways to share the information housed within our library through innovative technologies.
And I know she’ll be a good steward for the important role that libraries play in our communities. Last year, during the unrest in Baltimore, Dr. Hayden and the library’s staff kept the doors of the Pratt open as a beacon for the community.
Finally, she’d be the first woman and the first African American to hold the position – both of which are long overdue.
So I hope you’ll take a couple minutes to watch this video and meet Carla for yourself. I have no doubt she’ll make a fantastic Librarian of Congress.
It was supposed to be an epic battle over the fate of Roe v. Wade.
Next week, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a challenge to Texas’s ambitious anti-abortion law HB2. If this law is upheld — a very real possibility in a conservative Supreme Court — Roe v. Wade would have most likely remained alive in name only. States would gain sweeping new power to shut down abortion clinics, so long as they dressed up the laws they enacted to end access to abortion as health regulations.
Except that opponents of abortion no longer have the fifth vote they need to gut Roe. Justice Antonin Scalia’s death means that Roe shall live at least another year. Whether it survives past next year, however, could very well be decided by whoever gets to fill Scalia’s seat.
AUL, moreover, does not hide its goal in pushing such legislation — as ThinkProgress’ Erica Hellerstein reported, AUL functions as a “legislation mill” producing anti-abortion bills that can be copied and enacted in many states. The anti-abortion group brags on their website that they work “through the law and legislative process to one end: Achieving comprehensive legal protection for human life from conception to natural death.” Overruling Roe v. Wade, according to AUL, “can be accomplished through deliberate, legal strategies that accumulate victories, build momentum, and restore a culture of life.”
Just over one week ago, Whole Woman’s Health appeared poised to become AUL’s crowning achievement. Under the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, states may not enact laws that place an “undue burden” a woman’s right to choose abortion — a vague standard that’s proved quite malleable in the hands of abortion opponents. At the same time, states may legitimately regulate all medical clinics, including those that provide abortions, to protect the health of individuals who seek treatment from those clinics. Whole Woman’s Health asks what happens when a state enacts abortion restrictions disguised as health regulations.
The clinic regulations and credentialing requirements at issue in this case will do little, if anything, to advance women’s health. But they make it a whole lot harder to obtain an abortion. Thus, a decision upholding HB2 could potentially return women to a world much like the one that existed prior to Roe. States may not actually be allowed to openly ban abortion after such a decision, but they’d have broad authority to restrict abortion just so long as they are clever enough to devise anti-abortion laws that look like health laws. And if state lawmakers proved inept at this task, groups like AUL would be more than happy to give them a hand.
Now, however, with Scalia’s seat vacant and the Court evenly divided between Democratic and Republican appointees, the likelihood HB2 will be upheld outright is vanishingly small.
No Longer The Man in the Middle
Before Scalia’s unexpected death, all eyes were on Justice Anthony Kennedy, the closest thing the Roberts Court has to a swing vote on abortion. As a general rule, if your plan of attack against an abortion restriction depends on winning Kennedy’s approval, you need a better plan. Prior to HB2, Justice Kennedy considered 21 abortion restrictions as a member of the Supreme Court andallowed 20 of them to take effect. In one case, Kennedy justified an abortion restriction in part because he thought that “it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.”
Yet, while Kennedy’s opinions reveal an almost visceral revulsion towards abortion, he’s also proved unwilling to overrule Roe outright. Kennedy co-authored the Casey opinion, which limited abortion rights, but which also purported to hold that “the essential holding of Roe v. Wade should be retained and once again reaffirmed.”
Thus, before conservatives lost their majority on the Supreme Court, the most important question in Whole Woman’s Health was likely to be which Justice Kennedy shows up to work next week — the one that consistently upholds abortion restrictions or the one that is unwilling to invalidate Roe in its entirety. Kennedy, moreover, gave hope to Team Choice when he cast the fifth vote to stay a lower court order upholding nearly all of HB2.
Now that the Court is evenly divided between liberals and conservatives, Kennedy no longer has the power to drive a nail in Roe‘s coffin, but he could still have the power to do considerable damage to the right to choose. The ordinary rule when the Court splits 4-4 is that the lower court’s decision is affirmed and the justices’ decision does not have any precedential value. Because the court of appeals largely upheld HB2, a 4-4 decision in Whole Woman’s Health would allow the Texas law to almost entirely remain in effect — at least until a fifth justice is confirmed to the Court and another abortion case reaches the justices.
Thus, as Cosmopolitan’s Jill Filipovic notes, Scalia’s death may actually make it more likely that Justice Kennedy votes to uphold HB2. “If Scalia were still alive, Kennedy might be choosing between overturning Roe and invalidating the Texas law,” Filipovic writes. Now, however, he doesn’t have to choose between two options that he’s likely to view as undesirable. Rather, if he sides with the conservatives he will leave lower court’s opinion in place without creating a precedent he may later come to regret. “For this particular justice, who seems to find abortion troubling but may not want to see it outlawed wholesale,” Filipovic notes, “that may be a desirable outcome.”
There is, however, some uncertainty about whether Kennedy will have this option. As SCOTUSBlog’s Tom Goldstein notes, the Court’s past practice when a vacancy opened in the middle of a term was to hold cases where the justices split over until the next term, when the open seat presumably would be filled. Given the extraordinary obstructionism Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already planned against anyone President Obama sends up to fill this seat, it remains to be seen whether the justices will decide to hold over split decisions until next term or simply affirm the case by an evenly divided vote and be done with it.
Which process they choose could matter a great deal in Whole Woman’s Health. Recall that Kennedy provided the fifth vote to stay the lower court’s decision upholding HB2. That order provides that the stay shall last until “the issuance of the judgment of this Court.” Thus, if the Court holds the case over for reargument next term, the stay remains in effect until the Court decides the case, and HB2 does not go into effect. If the Court affirms the lower court by an evenly divided vote, by contrast, that counts as a “judgment” of the Supreme Court, so the clinics most impacted by HB2 will close.
The choice whether to hold the case over could also matter for an entirely different reason. If President Obama (or a similarly minded president) manages to fill Justice Scalia’s seat, one of the first matters taken up by the Court’s new liberal majority would be a major abortion case. That would not only give them the opportunity to strike down HB2, it would also give them the chance to expand a right to choose that has been gradually chipped away after decades of conservative decisions. The vague “undue burden” standard that now controls abortion cases was pushed by abortion opponents including the Reagan Justice Department and AUL itself before it was ultimately adopted by the Supreme Court. A more liberal Court could scrap this standard altogether or, at the very least, clarify it in a way that does not permit anti-abortion judges to take advantage of its vagueness.
Rather than becoming AUL’s crowning achievement, in other words, Whole Woman’s Health could be their most demoralizing defeat.
Yet that outcome depends entirely on who gets to fill Justice Scalia’s seat. If the next justice is more like Scalia, Whole Woman’s Health could still become AUL’s greatest triumph.
Within minutes of the news breaking that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had died, Republicans said (more specifically Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said) they would refuse to consider ANY Obama nominee to replace him, no matter what. Such a lengthy vacancy on the court would likely preserve the status quo in a number of high-profile cases this term, including those affecting the issues of affirmative action, immigration, abortion access and possibly even the president’s climate regulations. It would also leave in legal limbo countless other cases Scalia and his clerks have worked on this term.
Several critical cases are already pending before the Supreme Court, including:
The latest attack on abortion rights in Texas
President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to fight climate change
The president’s action to allow the “Dreamer” undocumented immigrants to stay in our country
The right-wing attack on the right of teachers and other workers to form strong unions
An extremist proposal to roll back voting rights by ending the “one person, one vote” rule
A Texas case that would limit affirmative action in higher education
It’s time to say resoundingly, “ENOUGH!” Republican obstruction has its limits. We, as Democrats, need to commit to doing everything it takes to retake the U.S. Senate this fall. If the Senate leaves town on recess (which they shouldn’t, the President should hold them in session), President Obama could make an appointment during that recess. And, if the GOP-controlled Senate does successfully manage to block all consideration of President Obama’s nominee, we need to make sure that we elect those who, once seated and sworn in the first week of January, will confirm President Obama’s nominee before our next President is inaugurated.
Along with other matters, such as overturning Citizens United, these cases remind us just how important it is that the next Supreme Court justice share America’s progressive values and rules the right way on these issues. We have an historic opportunity to have a progressive majority on the Supreme Court for the first time in more than 25 years.
Catherine Cortez Masto is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Harry Reid. To assure that our concerns and issues are effectively considered and dealt with by the U.S. Senate, you need to make sure you get out this fall, either during early voting, or on election day, and cast your vote for Catherine. The last person we need claiming to represent Nevada’s interests is a Senator Joe Heck. It’s time to send him packing. We’ve seen what he did in the House and we don’t need even more of that in the Senate.
In all of these issues, the Department of Justice plays a vital role. And its head, as the top law enforcement officer in the United States, leads the way. Ms. Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, is a highly qualified nominee for the position. While some Republicans used her confirmation hearing as a chance to voice their out-of-touch views on President Obama’s recent immigration action or the departing Attorney General, she excelled in answering questions and impressing a bipartisan group of Senators.
So what is the hold up? Here are 5 reasons to quit delaying and confirm Loretta Lynch as Attorney General.
She is a proven, well-qualified leader. Lynch has a proven record of prosecuting hate crimes and corruption, and a reputation of being committed to protecting human rights and ensuring equal opportunity.
She would make history. Loretta Lynch would make history by being the first African-American woman to become Attorney General. What better way for the Senate to celebrate Women’s History Month and the legacy of Selma than to confirm Lynch.
Bonus: The movie Goodfellas was based on one of Loretta Lynch’s cases. She’s got what it takes.
BOTTOM LINE: When issues of racial inequality, voting rights, criminal justice, and more are front and center in our nation’s dialogue, it is no time to be playing games with our nation’s top law enforcement officer. Loretta Lynch has proven herself, and the Senate has had ample time to deliberate. Now its time to bring the nomination to the floor, and vote to confirm.
After a two week recess, the Senate has made significant progress in judicial confirmations on its first week back. This is not due to a drop in Republican obstruction, but instead to Majority Leader Harry Reid’s determination to overcome that obstruction. Only one week during President Obama’s administration has seen more judicial confirmations. Since Monday, over GOP filibuster efforts, the Senate has confirmed eight district court nominees and one circuit court nominee, while breaking the filibuster of a second circuit court nominee. Nancy L. Moritz’s nomination to the Tenth Circuit is scheduled for Monday, May 5.
Clearing so many of President Obama’s judicial nominations is a nearly unprecedented occurrence for a Senate that has been bogged down by Republican obstruction every step of the way. People For the American Way’s Executive Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:
“This was a good week for our justice system, with nine judges confirmed to the bench. Americans saw critical advancement in confirming the circuit court nominees who have been denied a vote for months. A Ninth Circuit judge was confirmed, and the filibuster of a Tenth Circuit judge was broken. We applaud the Senate for moving forward on these confirmations, which are crucial for our justice system to run efficiently and serve everyday Americans. It is heartening to see the Senate taking this important step to strengthen our judiciary.
“Senator Reid’s efforts to prioritize this issue and clear President Obama’s judicial nominations are making an impact. Despite Senate Republicans blocking nominees and delaying votes from the beginning, Senator Reid has pushed to move these nominations forward and this week, we’ve seen that work pay off.
“We hope to continue to see the Senate working for the benefit of American citizens by giving them the fully functioning courts they deserve.”
In my email today from Drew Courtney, Director of Communications at PFAW, was the following:
One item that didn’t get the attention it deserved during the hearings of DC Circuit nominee Nina Pillard today is her role leading Georgetown University Law Center’s Supreme Court Institute. The SCI offers its moot courts as a public service, at no charge and irrespective of the positions taken by counsel, reflecting a core commitment to the quality of Supreme Court advocacy in all cases.
Members of the Supreme Court Bar, including Carter Phillips, Andrew Pincus, Lawrence Robbins and Charles Rothfeld (all attorneys in the Solicitor General’s office under President Ronald Reagan) cited Pillard’s work leading the Supreme Court Institute in the letter they wrote calling for her confirmation.
“Professor Pillard is also Faculty Co-Director of the Supreme Court Institute (SCI), a unique project at Georgetown University Law Center, dedicated to improving practice before the Supreme Court. The SCI recruits professors and attorneys with experience in Supreme Court litigation to act as mock justices to help prepare lawyers for oral argument in the Court. The SCI offers its services impartially on a first-come, first-served basis to advocates with upcoming cases in the Supreme Court, and it has become so popular in recent years that it assisted lawyers in every case argued in the Court’s last Term. Chief Justice Roberts, Justices Scalia and Ginsburg, and many others from the bench and bar have praised the work of the SCI in contributing to the quality of advocacy. Most of us have participated as advocates and/or Justices at SCI moot court sessions. Over more than a decade, Professor Pillard has personally mooted dozens of cases, whether the advocate is a first-time lawyer or former Solicitor General, doing her best to help each advocate develop and present the best argument possible to the Court, regardless of the issue in the case or the ideological position of the party being represented.
We believe that Professor Pillard would bring to the D.C. Circuit unquestioned professional integrity and intellect, a breadth of experience, and dedication to fairness and the rule of law. We urge her confirmation.”
Ms. Pillard is facing an uphill battle getting her nomination out of the Senate Judiciary committee. Nina Pillard is being nominated for an open position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. This court has exclusive jurisdiction over many vital national security challenges and hears the bulk of appeals from the major regulatory agencies of the federal government. Aside from the U.S. Supreme Court, it resolves more constitutional questions involving separation of powers and executive prerogatives than any court in the country. As such, it’s one of the busiest circuit courts.
Some of the GOP’s biggest nay-sayers sit on the Senate Judiciary committee (Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Jeff Sessions, Lindsay Graham, John Cornyn, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Jeff Flake ), and thus far, they’ve been very successful at crippling the DC Circuit court’s ability to handle some of our nation’s most challenging cases. At today’s hearing, Republican committee members zeroed in and fixated on an article she wrote in 1997 that suggested that abstinence-only sex education may violate the equal protection rights of women.
Instead of demeaning and painting Ms. Pillard as a mere characture, maybe Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee should check in with President George W. Bush’s Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh, who says of Pillard “… is a fair-minded thinker with enormous respect for the law and for the limited, and essential, role of the federal appellate judge—qualities that would make her well prepared to take on the work of a DC Circuit judge. I am confident that she would approach the judicial task of applying laws to facts in a fair and meticulous manner.”
GOP Senators should rethink their premise. Professor Pillard’s academic writings actually show her openness to viewpoints raised by abortion opponents.
Professor Pillard consulted 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.
Pillard wrote, “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)
Moreover, there have been multiple Circuit Court nominees who have written extensively on controversial issues such as abortion from a anti-choice point of view, who went on to be confirmed with strong support from Republicans.
William Pryor, nominated to Eleventh Circuit, had called Roe v Wade the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law,” but was led to say that even though he strongly disagreed with Roe, he would act in accordance with it if confirmed. He was confirmed.
Michael McConnell, nominated to the Tenth Circuit, said Roe was wrongly decided and urged the Supreme Court to overturn it. He called for a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of the unborn. He also applauded a federal judge for refusing to convict anti-abortion protestors, even though they had clearly violated the law, because of his sympathetic reading of the defendants’ motives. He was unanimously confirmed.
J. Leon Holmes, an Arkansas district court nominee, had argued that abortion should be banned even in case of rape because pregnancy from rape is as uncommon as “snowfall in Miami,” and had written that wives should be submissive to their husbands. He was confirmed.
Janice Rogers Brown, also nominated to the DC Circuit, had made multiple provocative remarks in speeches, such as referring to the New Deal as the start of a Socialist movement. She admitted that she was trying to be provocative, but assured the committee at her hearing that she “would follow precedent.” She was confirmed.
If we want something other than continual obstruction, WE need to take just a few minutes from our day, and let our Senators know where we stand and urge them to take the action we support. It’s up to us. This morning, I took the time to send an email to both Senator Reid and Senator Heller asking them both to actively support and vote for her confirmation. I also took the time to email each GOP Senator on the Judiciary Committee asking them to vote for her confirmation. I hope you’ll do the same by clicking the above links for Senators Reid and Heller and asking them for their vote of confirmation. Or, if you’re an out-of-state reader, you can find a link to your Senator’s email contact form HERE.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took the first step to invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” a Senate procedure that will allow a majority of the Senate to effectively change its rules to limit widespread obstructionism by the minority. As the trigger for this reform involves seven executive branch nominees being held up by Senate Republican filibusters, the likely consequence of this round of rules reform will be to eliminate the minority’s ability to filibuster nominees to non-judicial jobs. Here’s what you need to know about the showdown in the Senate that will occur next week:
What Is The “Nuclear Option?”
Although the term “nuclear opinion” was embraced by its opponents in an effort to cast aspersions it — its supporters have at times preferred to call it the “constitutional option” or the “Byrd option” — this maneuver is deeply rooted in the Senate’s history. As an article published by the conservative Federalist Society explained in 2004, the basic mechanism was devised by Republicans in 1890 to defeat a Democratic filibuster of a bill permitting military intervention in southern states that prevented African-Americans from voting.
Under this 1890 plan, Sen. Nelson Aldrich (R-RI) proposed introducing a motion asserting that “[w]hen any bill, resolution, or other question shall have been under consideration for a considerable time, it shall be in order for any Senator to demand that debate thereon be closed.” Aldrich then envisioned a series of steps where the presiding officer of the Senate would reject the process proposed by his motion, and a simple majority of the Senate would reverse the presiding officer’s decision. Aldrich, however, never executed this plan because Democrats eventually caved and allowed a vote on the bill out of concerns that Aldrich would succeed.
More recently, in 1977, Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd (D-WV) successfully used a similar process to prevent senators from forcing debate on amendments introduced purely for the purpose of delay. Under this maneuver, Byrd asked Vice President Walter Mondale, who was then presiding over the Senate, to rule that he was required to “take the initiative” to rule such dilatory amendments out of order. When Mondale sustained Byrd’s request, supporters of more delay appealed that decision, and Byrd led the Senate to table this appeal by a majority vote. Thus, Byrd effectively eliminated a mechanism allowing a minority of senators to prevent a vote on a matter the majority supports, just as Reid seeks to do now.
Indeed, in a memo provided to ThinkProgress, Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D-OR) office identifies 17 additional times since Byrd originally executed this maneuver in 1977 when the Senate has changed its procedures by a majority vote. The most recent example occurred on October 6, 2011, when the Senate voted 51-48 that senators could not use “motions to suspend the rules in order to consider non-germane amendments post cloture” in order to delay a vote.
Wasn’t There A Big Fight Over This During The Bush Administration?
Many Republicans who are now playing a key role in defending the filibuster labeled Democratic filibusters unconstitutional in 2005. Future Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused Democrats of wanting “to reinterpret the Constitution to require a supermajority for confirmation.” Future Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) labeled Democrats’ actions an “unconstitutional use of the filibuster.” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who has since voted to filibuster several Obama nominees, declared that “I would never filibuster any President’s judicial nominee, period.”
The Democrats’ filibusters did not last very long, however, in the so-called Gang of 14 agreement, seven Democrats agreed to a near total surrender to Republican demands — agreeing to permit Owen, Pryor and Brown to be confirmed to federal appeals courts. As an added bonus for Republicans, this agreement left the filibuster intact, thus allowing them to turn it against President Obama.
But Wait, Didn’t Democrats Oppose The Nuclear Option In 2005?
They did, but circumstances have changed quite a bit since then. Democrats filibustered nominees like Owen, Pryor and Brown because they viewed them as uniquely offensive nominees justifying the use of unusual tactics. Republicans under Obama, by contrast, say that there are some jobs that they will confirm no one to, no matter who President Obama nominates. Many Democrats who still believe that the filibuster can exist if it is only used, in the words of the Gang of 14 agreement, in “extraordinary circumstances,” now see that filibusters are being used in extraordinarily ordinary circumstances. They believe this is a bridge too far.
there will be no one to enforce workers’ rights to join a union without intimidation from their employer. No one to enforce workers’ rights to join together to oppose abusive work conditions. And no one to make an employer actually bargain with a union. Without an NLRB to enforce the law, it may be possible for an employer to round up all of their pro-union workers, fire them, and then replace them with anti-union scabs who will immediately call a vote to decertify the union.
Similarly, a Republican filibuster of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordary will likely shut down that agency’s new authority to regulate Wall Street. Anticipated filibusters of three nominees to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will enable Republicans to strike numerous rules promulgated by the Obama Administration to protect workers, consumers and the environment. The filibuster is no longer being used to block unusually offensive nominees, it’s being used to hobble America’s ability to govern itself.
Beyond these specific examples, there can be no doubt that filibusters spiked significantly since McConnell took over at the Senate’s Republican leader. A common mechanism used to measure the frequency of filibusters is to count the number of “cloture motions” filed in a particular Congress — cloture motions are the mechanism used to attempt to break a filibuster. The number of such motions spiked massively the minute McConnell became Minority Leader:
The reason why the NLRB is in danger of going dark, stripping away much of American labor law in the process, are two decisions joined by five Republican judges that effectively strip away President Obama’s power to fill these seats via a recess appointment. And, while there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will uphold these decisions, the fact remains that there are five Republicans on the Supreme Court and only four Democrats.
If the NLRB goes dark, unscrupulous employers could do significant and irreversible damage to workers and the unions they rely upon to protect their livelihoods. Even if the Senate were eventually able to fill the open seats on the NLRB, the labor movement may never recover from the blow such employers could deal in the absence of an NLRB capable of enforcing federal law. Thus, the irony of the five Republican judges’ decisions stripping away much of the government’s ability to function is that it could ultimately have the opposite effect. Because Democrats no longer have the option to delay filibuster reform without risking permanent harms, robust reform is more likely today than it has ever been. And that will lead to a far more functional government than the one we have under Mitch McConnell’s preferred regime.