Judiciary

Trump’s Biggest Impact Will Be the Courts

Jonathan Swan: “If Mitch McConnell’s schedule goes to plan, the week after Thanksgiving the Senate Majority Leader will confirm his ninth federal judge. That would beat President Reagan’s eight in his first year — the most in recent history. And it triples the three federal judges President Obama appointed in his first year in office.”

“The federal courts affect almost every area of policy: gun rights, presidential executive orders like Trump’s travel ban, social policy issues like abortion and freedom of religion, and tensions between regulation, litigation and private enterprise. McConnell’s judges — who passed through a well-funded and organized conservative pipeline — will shape the U.S. over many decades in ways we can’t yet imagine.”

“Smart Democrats are deeply concerned about this trend, and understand that these lifetime judicial appointments will have a much greater impact on the future direction of this country than any short-term spending deal or policy.”

Trump Adds 5 to List of Possible Supreme Court Justices

“In a move certain to please conservatives, President Trump added five names to his list of candidates for a prospective U.S. Supreme Court vacancy as he presses ahead with a campaign to move the federal judiciary to the right,” Reuters reports.

“Two of them are appellate judges who were nominated by Trump earlier this year and confirmed by the Senate: Amy Coney Barrett and Kevin Newsom. Another, Brett Kavanaugh, sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, long viewed as a stepping-stone to the high court. The others were Britt Grant, a Georgia Supreme Court justice, and Patrick Wyrick, a Oklahoma Supreme Court justice.”

Republicans Quietly Blow Up ‘Blue Slips’

Politico: “Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is burning the blue slip for some judicial nominees. The Iowa Republican announced Thursday that he is going ahead with a confirmation hearing for a nominee to the powerful appellate courts despite the objections of a Democrat who had been blocking the nomination for months. The move will likely escalate the judicial wars in the Senate.”

“The blue slip process is a century-old Senate tradition that says the Judiciary Committee doesn’t hold a confirmation hearing for potential judges without approval from permission from the candidate’s home-state senators… Previous committee chairs have rigidly adhered to the blue-slip rule for district court nominees, whose courts span just a single state.  But they have been more flexible for the more influential and powerful circuit courts.  Democrats pointed out that Grassley, as chairman during the final two years of Obama’s presidency, declined to hold hearings for nine of Obama’s judicial picks because of the blue slip policy.”

Trump Picks Mostly White Men as Judges

“President Trump is nominating white men to America’s federal courts at a rate not seen in nearly 30 years… So far, 91 percent of Trump’s nominees are white, and 81 percent are male, an Associated Press analysis has found. Three of every four are white men, with few African-Americans and Hispanics in the mix. The last president to nominate a similarly homogenous group was George H.W. Bush.”

“The shift could prove to be one of Trump’s most enduring legacies. These are lifetime appointments, and Trump has inherited both an unusually high number of vacancies and an aging population of judges. That puts him in position to significantly reshape the courts that decide thousands of civil rights, environmental, criminal justice and other disputes across the country. The White House has been upfront about its plans to quickly fill the seats with conservatives, and has made clear that judicial philosophy tops any concerns about shrinking racial or gender diversity.”

Nominee Says He Was Joking About ‘Right to Marry Bacon’

One of President Trump’s judicial nominees, Don Willett, said he was just kidding when he compared gay people’s constitutional right to marriage with a right to marry bacon, the Huffington Post reports.

“Willett, nominated for a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, told the Senate Judiciary Committee he wasn’t mocking same-sex marriage when he tweeted in April 2015 that he ‘could support recognizing a constitutional right to marry bacon’ ― a day after the Supreme Court heard arguments in the landmark marriage equality case.”

Nominee Did Not Disclose Wife Works in White House

“One of President Trump’s most controversial judicial nominees did not disclose on publicly available congressional documents that he is married to a senior lawyer in the White House Counsel’s Office,” the New York Times reports.

“The nominee, Brett Talley, is awaiting a Senate confirmation vote that could come as early as Monday to become a federal district judge in Alabama. He is married to Ann Donaldson, the chief of staff to the White House counsel, Donald McGahn.”

Trump Remaking the Judiciary at a Rapid Pace

New York Times: “Nearly a year later, that plan is coming to fruition. Mr. Trump has already appointed eight appellate judges, the most this early in a presidency since Richard M. Nixon, and on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to send a ninth appellate nominee — Mr. Trump’s deputy White House counsel, Gregory Katsas — to the floor.”

“Republicans are systematically filling appellate seats they held open during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office with a particularly conservative group of judges with life tenure. Democrats — who in late 2013 abolished the ability of 41 lawmakers to block such nominees with a filibuster, then quickly lost control of the Senate — have scant power to stop them.”

Senate Panel Approves ‘Not Qualified” Nominee

“Brett Talley, President Trump’s nominee to be a federal judge in Alabama, has never tried a case, was unanimously rated ‘not qualified’ by the American Bar Association’s judicial rating committee, has practiced law for only three years and, as a blogger last year, displayed a degree of partisanship unusual for a judicial nominee, denouncing ‘Hillary Rotten Clinton’ and pledging support for the National Rifle Association,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, on a party-line vote, approved him for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.”

Trump Calls U.S. Justice System a ‘Laughing Stock’

President Trump called for “quick” and “strong” justice for terror suspects in the wake of the deadly New York City attack, saying that it is not surprising terror attacks happen because the way the United States punishes terrorists is “a laughing stock,” CNN reports.

Trump also said he would consider sending the attacker to the controversial prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Moore Calls for Judge’s Impeachment

Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore (R) said the federal judge who stopped President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender people in the military should be impeached, the Birmingham News reports.

He called it “a perfect example of the outlandish doctrine of judicial supremacy whereby judges exalt themselves over the Constitution they are sworn to uphold.”

ABA Deems Another Trump Nominee ‘Not Qualified’

Another one of President Trump’s judicial nominees — this time, to the powerful appellate courts — has been deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, Politico reports.

Grasz is the second judicial nominee from Trump to get a “not qualified” label from the bar association.

A Political Wire reader went through all of the ratings available on the ABA website, back to 1989.  This is only the third unanimous “Not Qualified” over this period.

Judge Refuses to Erase Arpaio’s Conviction

“A federal judge shot down former sheriff Joe Arpaio’s bid to sweep his criminal record clean,” the Washington Post reports.

“In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton said the pardon only freed Arpaio from possible punishment. In a four-page order offering a check on the president’s executive power, Bolton wrote that a pardon could not erase the facts of the case.”

How to Win Justice Kennedy’s Vote

Jeffrey Toobin: “The secret to advocacy before the contemporary Supreme Court is no secret: it’s all about pandering to Justice Anthony Kennedy. With the other eight Justices evenly split between liberals and conservatives, lawyers in controversial cases spend most of their energy indulging the idiosyncratic passions of the rangy Californian who sits beside the Chief Justice.”

“That means, for the most part, talking about the First Amendment. In his thirty years on the bench, Kennedy has displayed an almost Pavlovian receptivity to claims of infringement on the freedom of speech.”

Court Appears Divided In Major Voting Rights Case

“U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday appeared divided over whether to issue a ruling that would curb the ability of politicians to draw electoral districts purely on partisan lines in a major voting rights case out of Wisconsin,” Reuters reports.

“Some of the conservative justices questioned whether Democratic voters challenging the maps drawn by Republicans in Wisconsin had legal standing to bring the case. But the potential swing vote, conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, asked tough questions of the state’s lawyers.”

“The liberal justices appeared more eager for the court to rule that partisan electoral maps could violate the U.S. Constitution.”

New York Times: How the new math of gerrymandering works.

Supreme Court Faces a Momentous Term

“The Supreme Court, which was shorthanded and slumbering for more than a year after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, is returning to the bench on Monday with a far-reaching docket that renews its central role in American life,” the New York Times reports.

“The new term is studded with major cases likely to provoke sharp conflicts. One of them, on political gerrymandering, has the potential to reshape American politics. Another may settle the question of whether businesses can turn away patrons like gay couples in the name of religious freedom.”