Editorials and Opinion
Column: Trump, GOP take aim at courts (Detroit News [MI], 09/26/17)
Nan Aron: The party-line confirmation of John Bush to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, ... demonstrates that the Republican majority cares little whom they confirm. Bush had written blog posts that routinely demeaned women and LGBTQ people, and recycled racist “birther” theories targeting President Obama. ... In Wisconsin, Trump ignored the state commission that has vetted federal judicial nominees for decades when he nominated an ally of Gov. Scott Walker for the Seventh Circuit. There’s talk of halting the century-old “blue slip” tradition allowing home-state senators to weigh in on nominations .... Larsen isn’t the only nominee with a controversial record: in Indiana, there’s professor Amy Coney Barrett ... Then there’s Damien Schiff, nominated for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Schiff attacked the integrity of U.S. Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy, calling him a “judicial prostitute.” The list goes on.
Another Day, Another Comically Unfit Judicial Nominee: Trump judicial nominee rails about "Satan's plan." (Above the Law, 09/25/17)
Joe Patrice: when applied to judicial nominations, the calculus rings true: the administration should be judged — and judged harshly — more by its failures than any successes. These are lifetime appointments to positions that wield incredible power. ... So far they’ve been wrong… a lot more than once.
These days, attention is shifting to Jeff Mateer, a nominee for an Eastern District of Texas seat. after punching his ticket at the First Liberty Institute, one of those non-profit advocacy centers dedicated to the principle that “liberty” means the right of everyone in this great nation to deny basic human rights to gays. ... This isn’t a slip up. Stuff like this doesn’t happen in spite of vetting, it happens because of it. ... It’s one thing for a lawyer to defend conservative causes, like, say, Paul Clement. It’s a whole other thing for a lawyer to rail against the march of constitutional rights as part of “Satan’s plan” and have this outburst serve as justification rather than disqualification from office. But again, this isn’t the first black eye for the Trump team. John Bush? Damien Schiff? When observers can plausibly say a federal appellate nominee is at best a blogger with a law degree and at worst a 4chan troll with a Martindale entry, then the sanctity of the whole endeavor is, rightly, tarnished. It demeans every nomination.
Mateer’s Nomination is a Brazen Attack on LGBTQ Americans: And it continues a dangerous Trump administration trend. (Medium, 09/22/17)
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: [Jeff] Mateer, of course, isn’t Trump’s first nominee to harbor anti-LGBTQ bias. Several of his Cabinet nominees, including Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, and Ben Carson, have dark histories of opposing LGBTQ rights. The same is true for many of Trump’s judicial nominees, like Damien Schiff, John Bush, Stephen Schwartz, and Joan Larsen. ... Mateer’s nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas is an assault on our nation’s ideals of equality and inclusion and must not move forward. If it does, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights coalition will be here to fight back
Obergefell Is Already Under Attack: Trump is laying the groundwork to overturn marriage equality. (Slate.com, 09/20/17)
Mark Joseph Stern: The latest confirmation of this goal arrived on Wednesday, when CNN revealed that a new Trump district court nominee, Jeff Mateer, recently condemned LGBTQ people in dehumanizing terms.... Trump nominated Mateer to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas earlier this month. On the same day, the president also nominated Matthew J. Kacsmaryk to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Mateer and Kacsmaryk are colleagues at First Liberty Institute, a conservative legal advocacy group that opposes LGBTQ rights, including nondiscrimination measures that protect gay and trans people. Although Kacsmaryk’s public statements are not flamboyantly bigoted, his choice of employment suggests that he shares Mateer’s beliefs about LGBTQ rights. A third nominee, Stephen S. Schwartz, has devoted much of his career to defending anti-trans measures in court. Trump wants to place him on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
Will the Senate confirm Mateer, Kacsmaryk, and Schwartz? I don’t see why not. In July, Senate Republicans pushed through John K. Bush, an anti-gay blogger and conspiracy theorist who used the word faggot in a speech. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have also approved Damien M. Schiff, a lawyer who declared in 2009 that a California law prohibiting bullying falsely taught “that the homosexual lifestyle is a good, and that homosexual families are the moral equivalent of traditional heterosexual families.”
A Confederacy of Dunces (Shelia Kennedy [IN professor blog], 09/05/17)
"The one area in which he has sent numerous nominees to be confirmed is the Judiciary, and those nominees are terrifying. Two examples:
John Kenneth Bush, Trump’s nominee for the Sixth Circuit ... Damien Schiff is Trump’s nominee for the US Court of Federal Claims. He has called Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy a “judicial prostitute” ... When “elitism” is defined as expertise, and people who know what they are doing are for that reason disqualified, ideology and incompetence fill the void."
Will Trump’s Enduring Legacy Be a Right-Wing Judiciary? The president is moving at a rapid clip to put ideological allies on the bench. (Moyers & Company, 08/25/17)
Susannah Jacob: Donald Trump chose Michael Brennan to fill an open seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In doing so, he broke with a 38-year-old Wisconsin tradition.
For decades, when the 7th Circuit seat meant for a Wisconsin judge opened up, a bipartisan state commission voted on a jointly agreed-upon list of judicial nominees for the president to consider.... Trump went ahead and selected Brennan, a former Milwaukee County judge who is a close ally of Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker. In 2011, while serving on a committee to help Walker select state-level judges, Brennan co-authored an op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel supporting Republican efforts to block Obama’s nominee to the 7th Circuit Court — a nominee who would have sat in the very seat for which Trump has nominated Brennan.... Republican senators support Trump’s nominees, despite spoken hesitation.
For instance, during his nomination hearings, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) found 52-year-old judicial nominee John Bush problematic. “I’ve read your blog. I’m not impressed,” Kennedy told Bush. ... Schiff would oversee environmental and agency lawsuits. In the past, he’s accused the Environmental Protection Agency of treating Americans “as if they were just slaves” and recommended selling Yosemite National Park to the Walt Disney Company because they’d “do a damn better job, I think.”
He also moonlights as a blogger. In one post, he called Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy a “judicial prostitute”
GOP Efforts to Break Up the Ninth Circuit Would Harm Justice (People For blog, 08/23/17)
Paul Gordon: The GOP’s current scheme to break up the Ninth Circuit is just the latest proposal to game the courts to get more rulings in their favor. Today’s Republican Party has developed expertise in this field. In the past year alone, they refused to even consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, they blocked confirmation votes on fully-vetted, uncontroversial, non-ideological Obama nominees to circuit and district courts, and voted in lockstep to confirm a far right Sixth Circuit Trump nominee who would not have passed the laugh test under a normal administration.... While conservative politicians try to break up the circuit, high-profile conservative judges have rejected the idea. Reagan nominee Judge Alex Kozinski testified ... On July 27, more than 30 current and former Ninth Circuit judges expressed their opposition to splitting the circuit .... PFAW joined more than 150 local, state, and national organizations in a letter to Grassley and Feinstein opposing efforts to divide the Ninth Circuit.
Senators Against White Supremacy: Time to Match Rhetoric to Votes on Nominees (Medium, 08/22/17)
Kyle Barry, NAACP LDF Policy Counsel: So far, however, the Republican-controlled Senate has served as a rubber stamp for Trump’s nominees, propelling into power judges and executive officials selected precisely because they will advance Trump’s broader anti-equality and anti-civil rights agenda. ... every Republican Senator (save for the absent John McCain) voted to confirm John Bush to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Bush’s record includes a surfeit of sexist, homophobic, and racist comments, and support for discriminatory policies. ... There is a nominee to the Court of Federal Claims, Damien Schiff, who once wrote that he would have “objected to an anti-racism curriculum being taught in 1950s Arkansas” because at that time the propriety of racism remained debatable. He also wrote that Supreme Court decisions upholding affirmative action repeated the same mistakes of Plessy v. Ferguson, which established the “separate but equal” doctrine, and Korematsu v. United States, which upheld the internment of Japanese Americans. Two other nominees, Thomas Farr to the Eastern District of North Carolina and Stephen Schwartz, another Court of Federal Claims nominee, defended North Carolina’s package of voting restrictions that the Fourth Circuit found “target[s] African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
What We’re in Danger of Losing (New York Times, 08/17/17)
Linda Greenhouse, Op-Ed: the Senate has devoted time to confirming President Trump’s judicial nominees, some of dubious merit. Last month, on a party-line vote of 51 to 47, the Senate confirmed a Kentucky lawyer, John K. Bush, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Under the pseudonym G. Morris, Judge Bush was a regular blogger on a conservative site called Elephants in the Bluegrass, on which he shared his opinion that Roe v. Wade was one of “the two greatest tragedies in our country”; the other was the Dred Scott case, the decision that denied American citizenship to slaves. The Senate has been slower to approve another Trump nominee, Damien Schiff, a staff lawyer for the right-wing Pacific Legal Foundation nominated to the United States Court of Federal Claims, perhaps because on his own blog he called Justice Anthony M. Kennedy a “judicial prostitute.”
In Wake Of Trump, Liberals Start To Realize They’ve Had The Judiciary All Wrong: Conservatives seem to ignite more passion for the judicial appointments... progressives are changing that. (Above the Law, 08/11/17)
Joe Patrice: at Netroots Nation ... two big themes stood out that challenged the way left-leaning people have talked about courts for years and, in the process, bridged the gap of those competing visions from last year.
First, the judiciary cannot be a progressive issue in and of itself — all other progressive issues must be framed through the courts. Rather than say “courts are important,” activists need to seize on issues that are already stirring people, and then connect those issues to the courts ... Second, Professor Crenshaw pointed out the elephant in the room: the Federalist Society set out years ago to create a platoon of ideologues to populate the judiciary that would be capable of passing any neutral test of “qualifications.” ... The fact that Democrats are starting to recognize that résumés cannot salvage people deeply unsuited for the bench is a testament to nominees like Judge John Bush of the Sixth Circuit and Damien Schiff — and if you haven’t watched their hearings, you really should treat yourself.
Trump's Nominees for the Courts Are Horrifying and Dangerous (The Advocate, 07/28/17)
Trudy Ring: Damien Schiff ... whose nomination to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is still pending. “Rarely has there been a nominee who is so sorely unfit to serve as a judge,” says Alliance for Justice’s online report on Schiff. And a letter by Lambda and other LGBT groups urging the Senate to reject Schiff says he “has gone beyond merely disagreeing with the judicial precedents that serve as the foundation of the LGBT community’s legal security and progress, and has denigrated LGBT people in ways that suggest that he is simply incapable of administering the law with respect to LGBT people without bias or prejudgment.”...he has called Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy “a judicial prostitute, ‘selling’ his vote as it were to four other Justices in exchange for the high that comes from aggrandizement of power and influence, and the blandishments of the fawning media and legal academy.” He has deemed Earth Day “a threat to individual liberty and property rights,”
LGBT Rights Groups Adamantly Oppose Judicial Nominees (Findlaw, 07/25/17)
U.S. Sixth Circuit Blog by William Vogeler: If attorneys John Bush and Damien Schiff were running for office, they might have been well-suited to serve in the Republican-controlled Congress.
Bush has made politically polarizing comments about issues such same sex-marriage, abortion, and women's rights. Schiff has publicly disparaged gays and even said states should be allowed to criminalize consensual sodomy.
But Bush and Schiff are in the running for judicial appointments. ... Schiff has been more transparent in his blogs.
For Schiff, that was a problem. He called Justice Anthony Kennedy, who present for the hearing, a "judicial prostitute."
We can't let Trump pack the court with radicals (The Hill, 07/24/17)
Ilyse Hogue: Gorsuch is not just a conservative justice — he’s an activist justice. ... John K. Bush, Trump’s newly confirmed nominee to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ... authored over 400 posts under the pseudonym “G Morris” on a Kentucky political blog. Lo and behold, Bush wasn’t an objective potential jurist seeking to call “balls and strikes,” as Chief Justice Roberts once said. He was an angry, misogynistic ideologue ... Bush’s political ideology, and his ability to infect the law with his beliefs, is precisely why he was nominated in the first place.
Trump Leaving His Mark on Federal Courts (Jost on Justice: Law & Justice Blog, 07/23/17)
Kenneth Jost: Trump picked up a win last week when the Senate confirmed an anti-gay conservative lawyer and intemperate political blogger to the federal appeals court for the four-state circuit that includes my home state, Tennessee. John Bush won confirmation to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by a strictly party-line vote of 51-47…. the political rants that he posted for years under a pseudonym on a political blog created by his wife mark him as lacking the judicial temperament and sound judgment that are as important, if not more so, than academic and professional credentials…. With political independence in short supply among GOP senators, a president who openly disdains the rule of law is on a path to leaving a lasting, black mark on the federal judiciary.
Conservative Political Blogger Confirmed For Seat On Federal Appeals Court (National Public Radio, 07/20/17)
NINA TOTENBERG: Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., caustically added that after reviewing Bush's blogs, he was "not impressed."
Shortly after the hearing, a clearly disgusted Kennedy said he did not know how he would vote on the nomination, but on Thursday he joined the Senate's other Republican members in voting to confirm the nominee.
Few observers thought Kennedy would ultimately vote against Bush's confirmation, in view of the fact that Bush is from Kentucky, and given that, his nomination was made not just by President Trump, but behind the scenes by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky. Crossing your own party leader is not something senators like to do, and Kennedy didn't.
Senate set to confirm unhinged right-wing blogger to powerful court; The Donald Trump of judges. (Think Progress, 07/20/17)
Ian Millhiser: John Bush is a lawyer who, for many years, wrote for a conservative blog under a pseudonym.... The opposition to Bush’s nomination, which has grown to include every Democrat in the Senate, focuses less on his resume and more on his history of publishing deeply conservative views on a blog run by his wife — as well as similar views offered in various speeches.
No place for bigotry on the bench (Troy Daily News [OH], 07/20/17)
Sen. Sherrod Brown - Contributing Columnist: This week, I took to the Senate Floor to shine a light on the president’s nominee to join the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, John K. Bush. This man has a clear record of promoting bigotry and discrimination that has no place in our courts, ... We cannot allow the bar to be lowered for what is considered acceptable behavior by members of the federal bench.
Oh, Look. Trump's New Judge Compared Abortion to Slavery. (Esquire, 07/20/17)
Charles P. Pierce: The selection of judges has been outsourced to the Federalist Society and to Heritage—in other words, to the cream of the conservative legal intelligentsia. And this, pretty much, is what you get.... This is not judicial temperament. This is a tryout for drive-time talk radio.
Anti-LGBTQ Judicial Nominees: Too Biased for the Bench (Medium, 07/20/17)
Harper Jean Tobin: Unfortunately, Bush is no outlier. President Trump’s pick for a seat in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Damien Schiff, has a record that demonstrates, in the words of a letter joined by NCTE and other LGBT advocates, “plain contempt for the rights of LGBT Americans.” Further, Schiff has flat-out denied the legitimacy of Title IX, a critical federal law that guarantees equal treatment for trans students. The shameless bias that Schiff, Bush, and other nominees freely espouse is simply unacceptable for judicial nominees, for our federal bench, and for our entire system of justice.... Another nominee for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Stephen S. Schwartz, ... helped craft arguments that federal laws offer no protection to trans people. While a lawyer’s choice of client is not, in itself, generally considered a valid ground for criticizing nominees, Schwartz’s involvement in making far-reaching legal arguments in these high-profile cases should prompt close scrutiny of his own views and possible biases.
Senate will vote today on right-wing blogger nominated by Trump for court of appeals (NC Policy Watch, 07/20/17)
Rob Schofield: Bush has recorded his extremist views in a blog full of rhetoric so inflammatory as to call into serious question his ability to serve as an impartial judge. ... he blog is full of personal attacks on those with whom he disagrees. He has no particular qualifications for the bench besides his right-wing views.... As Supreme Court expert Ian Millhiser of the Center for American Progress explains in an excellent post, “this is not normal.” What’s more, Bush’s legal views are extreme on an array of issues
The one area where Trump has been wildly successful (Washington Post, 07/20/17)
Ronald A. Klain: while President Trump is incompetent at countless aspects of his job, he is proving wildly successful in one respect: naming youthful conservative nominees to the federal bench in record-setting numbers.... Trump’s picks are astoundingly young.... How conservative are Trump’s picks? Dubbed “polemicists in robes” in a headline on a piece by Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, Trump’s nominees are strikingly . . . Trumpian. One Trump nominee blogged that Kennedy was a “judicial prostitute” for trying to find a middle ground on the court, and said that he “strongly disagree[d]” with the court’s decision striking down prosecution of gay people under sodomy laws. Another equated the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, upholding a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, to the court’s 19th-century Dred Scott finding that black people could not be U.S. citizens. Another advocated an Alabama law that denied counsel to death-row inmates.... Republican leaders are threatening to curtail “blue slip” rights that allow senators to block unacceptable home-state nominees; Trump is nominating candidates before they are reviewed by the American Bar Association; Judiciary Committee Republicans are arguing that nominees’ writings, legal representations and public statements are irrelevant to confirmation. Democrats should oppose these changes in the process .... Second, Democrats need to overcome their historic unease about working closely with progressive legal groups.
Something else for Little Rock to live down (Arkansas Times, 07/20/17)
Arkansas Blog by Max Brantley: Think Progress expects John Bush, a Little Rock native who practices law in Lousiville, to be confirmed as a 6th Circuit Court of Appeals judge in a party line 51-48 vote this afternoon.
The article gives some of the many reasons Bush is unfit for the post — anti-gay, anti-women's rights, probably a birther, anti-press ... One point against him is locally relevant: Bush in Senate hearings disclaimed much knowledge of Brown v. Board of Education. Hey, one of the most important cases in the annals of the country happened before he was born. What's a guy to do? He also disclaimed knowledge of "controversy" caused by Brown. The little ol' school dustup in his hometown of Little Rock occurred before he was born, too. Maybe that wasn't controversy. ... Rep. John Lewis perhaps could inform him of a few other controversies that followed elsewhere over requiring schools to serve white and black children equally. And, I should add, the beat goes on in his very own hometown. Sad!
The Senate Just Confirmed an Anti-Gay Blogger to the Federal Judiciary (Slate.com, 07/20/17)
Mark Joseph Stern: The Trump administration’s assault on LGBTQ rights scored a major victory on Thursday when the Senate confirmed John K. Bush to the powerful 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Bush, perhaps Trump’s most controversial nominee to the lower courts, has a long history of making homophobic and sexist comments during his years as an anonymous blogger. Yet every Republican senator (except the absent John McCain) voted to confirm him. ... Bush’s record overflows with offensive, archaic, and bizarre comments, many directed toward women and sexual minorities.... In the coming days, the Senate will also vote on Damien Schiff’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which considers environmental and regulatory lawsuits. Schiff has written that the Constitution does not bar states from criminalizing homosexuality. He also declared in 2009 that a California law prohibiting bullying wrongly taught “that the homosexual lifestyle is a good, and that homosexual families are the moral equivalent of traditional heterosexual families.” His article was entitled “Teaching ‘Gayness’ in Public Schools.”
PANTS ON FIRE: Trump’s Judicial Pick John Bush Lies to the Senate About Comparing Abortion to Slavery; Unreported testimony shows a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals nominee transparently lied to the Senate about his extremist views. (Daily Beast, 07/19/17)
Jay Michaelson: Bush will become both the most appalling extremist on the federal bench, and a judge who lied to Congress.
As has been well reported, Bush has had long career as an extreme right-wing blogger, under his own name and under the pseudonym ‘G. Morris.’ This has led to significant liberal opposition and even a hashtag, #StopBush..
But what has gone unreported until now is how duplicitous, evasive, and outright deceptive Judge Bush was in defending the statements to the Senate, as revealed in the official record of his answers to questions senators posed to him.
Bush’s responses to Senators who pressed him on these statements indicate that he is unrepentant, uncooperative, and uninterested in the democratic process by which judges are confirmed.... they are so baldly, shamelessly, transparently preposterous that they cannot be maintained to be true. Which means that he is also a liar.
Trump nominates hyper-partisan conservative activist to NC federal court vacancy: Why this is not “business as usual” and should not be condoned (NC Policy Watch, 07/18/17)
Rob Schofield: the GOP-dominated Senate is moving quickly to approve a bevy of new hardliners – including a conservative blogger from Kentucky named John K. Bush who authored scores of offensive posts under a pseudonym before Trump saw fit to nominate him to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.... Last week, the conservative courts putsch reached North Carolina when Trump nominated a right-wing activist lawyer named Thomas Farr to fill a seat on U.S. District Court for the Eastern District – the oldest vacancy in the federal system. As readers will no doubt recall, the Eastern District seat has stood vacant for more than a decade – including the entire Obama presidency – thanks to Senator Richard Burr’s stubborn refusal to allow either of President Obama’s two nominees to receive a hearing. ... Unlike both of the individuals advanced by President Obama (federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker and veteran state court judge Patricia Timmons-Goodson) Thomas Farr is not an experienced public servant. Rather, he is a lifelong partisan activist who has spent four decades advancing the hard right agenda.... the hard and striking reality that:
a) Farr is yet another white male being nominated in an region that has never, in the entire history of the nation, been served by a federal judge of color (both May-Parker and Timmons-Goodson are African-American),
b) the Eastern District includes all of the counties in the state that are greater than 50% African-American in population and has the greatest percentage of African-Americans of any region in the state, and
c) Farr has dedicated big chunks of his career to abetting controversial conservative efforts with respect to voting rights of African-Americans,
We all expect better than these 2 Trump judicial nominations (Bangor Daily News [ME], 07/16/17)
Opinion by Mary L. Bonauto: the U.S. Senate will vote on whether to confirm John K. Bush and Damien Schiff to the federal bench. Neither man comes close to these standards, and through speeches, blogging and past legal activities, both have demonstrated hostility toward entire groups of people. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King should lead the votes against their confirmation and send the message that we all expect better in judicial nominations.
Bush has a long history of offensive actions and writings that exhibit stereotyped thinking and hostility toward women and LGBTQ Americans.... Similarly, Schiff’s blogging and legal career demonstrate that he lacks judicially qualifying characteristics as well, epitomized by his reference to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy as a “judicial prostitute.” ... It is time to send a message that we Americans want qualified judges who will give everyone a chance based on the facts and the law. One of those vacancies is here in Maine
Check President Trump (Medium, 07/12/17)
Desiree Tims, League of Conservation Voters: This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to confirm or deny toxic nominees, John K. Bush and Damien Schiff. ... Some of the 22 judicial nominees for lower courts have egregious views regarding clean air, water, and common sense public health safeguards. This is especially true of Damien Schiff, who Trump nominated to serve on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ... Schiff stated that “[the] problem with the [EPA] across the board [is] treating American citizens as if the[y] were not American citizens, [but] as if they were [sic] slaves.”