Editorials and Opinion
Pa.’s senators must promote gender diversity in federal courts (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 07/21/17)
KADIDA KENNER, Why Courts Matter – PA: the Trump administration decided to stay the course and nominate another white man for the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seat .... Sen. Pat Toomey blocked former President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Judge Rendell for the 3rd Circuit, Rebecca Haywood, when Mr. Toomey refused to submit his home-state blue slip allowing for a judicial hearing for Ms. Haywood. For nearly one year, Ms. Haywood, an African-American and highly qualified assistant U.S. attorney from Western Pennsylvania, waited ... and the 3rd Circuit continues to lack gender diversity and the perspective of an African-American woman on its bench.
For anyone keeping score, Ms. Haywood’s confirmation would have been only the 21st federal court confirmation in Mr. Obama’s last two years of his presidency, compared with Ronald Reagan with 83, Bill Clinton with 72 and George W. Bush with 68 .... There’s still a second opening on the 3rd Circuit, and Sens. Toomey and Bob Casey should renominate Rebecca Haywood.
Letter to the Editor: Republican tactics block gender diversity on bench (Erie Times-News [PA], 07/21/17)
Kadida Kenner, Why Courts Matter — Pennsylvania: Sen. Pat Toomey blocked former President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Rendell for the 3rd Circuit, Rebecca Haywood, when Toomey refused to submit his home-state blue slip allowing for a judicial hearing for Haywood. For nearly one year, Haywood, an African American and highly qualified assistant U.S. attorney from western Pennsylvania, waited for the opportunity to have a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Haywood’s nomination ultimately expired in January, and the 3rd Circuit continues to lack gender diversity and the perspective of an African-American woman on its bench.... I’m sure Toomey will vote the party line and support the current nomination of the new nominee, University of Pennsylvania criminal law professor Stephanos Bibas, to fill the seat that rightfully belongs to Haywood. There’s still a second opening on the 3rd Circuit. Sens. Toomey and Bob Casey should renominate Haywood.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.... rump’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.
Letter: Federal Court gender imbalance continues in Pennsylvania (Lebanon Daily News [PA], 07/19/17)
Kadida Kenner, Why Courts Matter – PA: Senator Toomey blocked former President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Judge Rendell for the 3rd Circuit, Rebecca Haywood, when Toomey refused to submit his home-state blue slip allowing for a judicial hearing for Haywood. For nearly one year, Haywood, an African-American and highly-qualified Assistant U.S. Attorney from Western PA, waited ... I’m sure Senator Toomey will vote the party line and support the current nomination of the Heritage-Foundation-approved nominee, University of Pennsylvania criminal law professor Stephanos Bibas, to fill the seat that rightfully belongs to Rebecca Haywood. And with Bibas’ nomination, the Third Circuit in Pennsylvania will continue to rank among the worst gender-balanced Circuit Court of Appeals in the nation. There's still a second opening on the 3rd Circuit - Senators Toomey and Casey should renominate Rebecca Haywood.
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.
“Pa. needs more diversity in federal appeals courts” (CA3blog, 07/18/17)
Matthew Stiegler: Kadida Kenner of Why Courts Matter PA, had this letter today on LehighValleyLive. The letter decries the Third Circuit’s gender imbalance. It also calls for the renomination of Rebecca Haywood to fill the second open PA seat on the court, noting: "For anyone keeping score, Haywood’s confirmation would have only been the 21st federal court confirmation in Obama’s last two years of his presidency, compared to Ronald Reagan with 83, Bill Clinton with 72 and George Bush with 68 confirmations during their final two years."
Your view: Renominate Obama pick for Third Circuit (Times Leader [PA] , 07/18/17)
Kadida Kenner: the Trump administration decided to stay the course and nominate another white man for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, a seat soon to be vacated due to the retirement of former Pennsylvania first lady, Marjorie Rendell.
Even with Rendell on the bench, Pennsylvania has the second-worst gender imbalance of all the federal courts in the nation at 17 percent.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, blocked former President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Rendell, Rebecca Haywood, when Toomey refused to submit his home-state blue slip, allowing for a judicial hearing for Haywood.
For nearly a year, Haywood, an African-American and highly qualified assistant U.S. attorney from western Pennsylvania, waited for the opportunity to have a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing .... There’s still a second opening on the Third Circuit. Toomey and Casey should renominate Rebecca Haywood.
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,
Blue Slips: Safeguard or Relic for Federal Judicial Appointments? (Nonprofit Quarterly, 07/18/17)
Carole Levine: The makeup of the Senate almost ensures that nominees who are voted out of the Judiciary Committee will receive the needed 51 votes for approval in the Senate, especially since the filibuster is no longer an option. But if blue slips are honored by Grassley, they could stop a nominee from advancing to a hearing in the Judiciary Committee.... The practice of using blue slips to halt a nomination is, perhaps, now more important than ever before.
Pa. needs more diversity in federal appeals courts | Letter (Express-Times [PA], 07/18/17)
Kadida Kenner, Why Courts Matter-PA: Last month the Trump administration nominates another white man for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals seat, a seat soon to be vacated by the retirement of Judge Marjorie Rendell. Even with Rendell on the bench, Pennsylvania has the second worst gender imbalance of all federal courts at 17 percent.
Sen. Pat Toomey blocked President Barack Obama's nominee to replace Rendell for the Third Circuit, Rebecca Haywood. For nearly a year, Haywood, an African-American and highly-qualified assistant U.S. Attorney from western Pennsylvania, waited for the opportunity for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. ... Haywood's confirmation would have only been the 21st federal court confirmation in Obama's last two years of his presidency, compared to Ronald Reagan with 83, Bill Clinton with 72 and George Bush with 68 confirmations during their final two years. Because of obstruction by Senate Republicans, there are more than 120 vacancies on our federal court benches.... There's a second opening on the Third Circuit. Toomey and Sen. Bob Casey should renominate Rebecca Haywood.
Casey, Toomey need to right the gender and racial imbalance on Pa.'s 3rd Circuit Appeals Court: Opinion (PennLive [PA], 07/18/17)
Guest Editorial By Kadida Kenner, Why Courts Matter - PA: the Trump administration decided to stay the course and nominate another white man for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals seat, a seat soon to be vacated due to the retirement of former Pennsylvania first lady, Judge Marjorie O. Rendell.
Even with Rendell on the bench, Pennsylvania has the second worst gender imbalance of all the federal courts in the nation at 17 percent.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., blocked former President Barack Obama's nominee to replace Judge Rendell for the 3rd Circuit, Rebecca Haywood, when Toomey refused to submit his home-state blue slip allowing for a judicial hearing for Haywood.
For nearly a year, Haywood, an African-American and highly-qualified Assistant U.S. Attorney from western Pennsylvania, waited .... Haywood's confirmation would have only been the 21st federal court confirmation in Obama's last two years of his presidency, compared to Reagan with 83, Clinton with 72 and G.W. Bush with 68 ... There's still a second opening on the 3rd Circuit - Toomey and and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., should re-nominate Rebecca Haywood.
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
John Bush and Damien Schiff are Unfit to Serve as Impartial Federal Judges: Our tweeting president wants these two bloggers to serve on the federal bench. Their writings show they’re both too extreme. (Medium, 07/12/17)
Mike Zubrensky: the Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to debate and vote on two of the most demonstrably provocative federal judicial nominees in a generation: John Bush and Damien Schiff. And our Constitution’s system of checks and balances is at stake.
The question for the 20 senators who serve on the committee is whether the clearly expressed views of judicial nominees matter at all in their consideration to be federal judges.... The written records of these two judicial nominees are simply stunning.... the Trump White House likely did not know about Schiff’s surreptitious writings until after he was nominated. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also likely did not know about Bush’s troubling writings at the time he recommended him to the White House.... we will learn if 20 senators on both sides of the aisle are comfortable with anonymous bloggers who have clearly demonstrated that they are unfit to serve as impartial federal judges. The Leadership Conference urges senators to reject these two nominees.
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.”
Blue Slips Become Issue in Senate (Politics PA, 07/11/17)
Paul Engelkemier: Update: Sources tell PoliticsPA that Republicans have misrepresented Casey’s actions. They say that Casey only received the paperwork for his blue slip about Bibas’ nomination this morning.
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party responded to the claims from Republicans.
“Before launching these absurd attacks, Republicans should get their basic facts straight. Mr. Bibas’ paperwork was received by the Senate Judiciary Committee late last night and only forwarded on to Senator Casey’s office this morning — around the same the GOP were drafting their statements claiming obstruction. Senator Casey has a strong bipartisan record of working to confirm judicial nominees from both Republican and Democratic presidents and will continue to evaluate candidates as the administration puts their names forward,” Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesman Max Steele said in an email.
Hallelujah News, Judiciary Department (Daily Kos, 07/11/17)
Meteor Blades: U.S. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will retire from the bench at the end of August. The libertarian-leaning Brown appointed by President George W. Bush in 2005 has a record of challenging 80-plus years of U.S. economic policy, having called the New Deal as a win for “socialist revolution.” Not the only federal judge appointed in the 21st Century to hold such views, of course, but Brown has been one of the most vocal in her judicial opinions, injecting a tone of disdain in her written judgments.
Casey reportedly blocking Bibas nomination [update: but apparently he isn’t] (CA3blog, 07/11/17)
Matthew Stiegler: Paul Engelkemier reports at PoliticsPA that PA Senator Bob Casey is withholding his blue slip on the Third Circuit nomination of Stephanos Bibas. ... UPDATE: Oops: PoliticsPA has now updated its post: "Sources tell PoliticsPA that Republicans have misrepresented Casey’s actions. They say that Casey only received the paperwork for his blue slip about Bibas’ nomination this morning." ... If the spokesman’s facts are correct, then the GOP was trying to pin the blame on Casey for a hold-up caused by the Trump administration itself!
Renominate Gallagher for the District of Maryland (Washington Post, 07/11/17)
Carl Tobias: In September 2015, then-President Barack Obama nominated Stephanie Gallagher, a magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court of Maryland since 2011, to a vacancy on this court. Gallagher is an exceptionally qualified, moderate nominee whom Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin, both Democrats, powerfully supported. In May 2016, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Gallagher without dissent.
Nonetheless, her nomination languished on the floor until Jan. 3 when her nomination expired, a result attributable to GOP obstruction in refusing to grant her a final debate and vote. Because Gallagher is an experienced, mainstream nominee and the District of Maryland requires all of its judges, President Trump must swiftly renominate and the Senate should promptly confirm the jurist.... Cardin and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who was elected in November after Mikulski’s retirement, should urge Trump to swiftly nominate Gallagher again, just as the chief executive recently renominated Judge David Nye and Dean Scott Palk, well qualified, mainstream Obama nominees who had enjoyed 2016 panel approval similar to Gallagher.
One of the Biggest Reasons Republicans Stick by Trump: They blocked Obama’s court nominees for years. Now they’re filling those seats, starting a huge shift rightward for the judiciary. (Bloomberg News, 07/10/17)
By Paul Barrett and David Ingold: this congressional pocket veto of Garland, a 64-year-old moderate and chief of the influential U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, was simply the most public manifestation of a longer-term strategy. After gaining control of the Senate in 2015, Republicans made it their mission to slow-walk Obama’s nominations for the lower courts. This effort contributed to the relatively large backlog of 107 vacancies on trial and intermediate-appellate courts that Trump inherited.... Two White House choices that have infuriated Democrats and could make moderate Republicans queasy are John Bush and Damien Schiff. Both men, who are scheduled for a vote before the Senate Judiciary Committee as soon as next week, have come under fire for hard-right views they’ve expressed as prolific bloggers.