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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Senator Statements


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Sen. Leahy: Grassley said he would follow same blue slip procedures-- over 30 years "He’s never broken his word to me.”
(Democrat - Vermont) 06/22/17
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), stuck by the practice for years when he was chairman ― even when Republicans routinely abused it to block Obama’s nominees.... “Sen. Grassley made it very clear that he appreciated what I did when there was a Republican president and Democratic president, applying the blue slips,” Leahy told HuffPost. “He told me he was going to follow the same procedures as chairman. And I take him at his word,” he added. “I’ve known him for over 30 years. He’s never broken his word to me.”

Sen. Leahy Congressional Record Statement on blue slip home-state Senator requirement for judicial nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 05/25/17
[S3172-33] "During my nearly 20 years as either chairman or ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, I encouraged Republicans and Democrats to work with President Clinton, President Bush, and President Obama to find qualified, consensus nominees, and I protected the rights of Senators in both parties. As Ranking Member Feinstein noted in a memo that was circulated yesterday, no judicial nomination made by the last three Presidents was confirmed without the support of both home State Senators. I cannot recall a nominee being confirmed over the objection of his or her home State Senator. The blue slip is not a partisan issue; it is about constitutional checks and balances and the Senate's role in protecting the independence of our Federal judiciary. I encourage President Trump to follow the example of his predecessors from both parties and work with us to find consensus nominees to ensure that our Federal courts remain the envy of the rest of the world."

Former Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy on blue slip home-state Senator requirement for judicial nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 05/20/17
David Carle, a spokesman for Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), said no judicial nominee – district or circuit court – received a hearing without first receiving both home state senators' positive blue slips while Leahy was the committee chair. “They loved the blue-slip rule when it was President Obama and Chuck Grassley to his credit said I enforced it with a Democratic president, he’s going to enforce it with Republican president, so we’ll have the blue-slip rule,” Leahy told The Hill. Leahy was citing a 2015 op-ed in The Des Moines Register by Grassley. “I appreciate the value of the blue-slip process and also intend to honor it,” he wrote. Leahy said he’s going to take Grassley for his word. “He knew that I enforced it and he said he would enforce it,” he said.

On Senate Floor, Leahy Speaks Out Against Gorsuch Nomination & Trump Agenda:
(Democrat - Vermont) 04/05/17
I am concerned that his personal views, and his politics, have permeated through his judicial philosophy – and that is in fact the reason why his nomination is before us today, ... With the Gorsuch nomination, Republicans are proving that they have no interest in playing by the rules; they prefer to break them. The unprecedented obstruction of Chief Judge Merrick Garland will be a permanent stain on this body. Then, days after the 2016 election, Republican leaders threatened to change the rules to get their own nominee through – before we even had a name,” Leahy said. “After disregarding his constitutional obligations for nearly a year, the Republican Leader now tells us we must rubberstamp President Trump’s nominee or he will forever damage the Senate.”

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Nomination Of Neil Gorsuch To Be An Associate Justice Of The Supreme Court
(Democrat - Vermont) 04/03/17
"I have evaluated every nominee on the merits – and I have voted to confirm six Supreme Court nominees of Republican presidents. Unlike Committee Republicans’ treatment of Chief Judge Merrick Garland, I take my constitutional duty to independently evaluate a president’s Supreme Court nominees seriously. ... I cannot recall a nominee refusing to answer such basic questions about the principles underlying our Constitution, and about how he interprets those principles.... Judge Gorsuch’s record says a lot about his judgment and his sense of justice. ... I cannot vote solely to protect an institution when the rights of hardworking Americans are at risk. I fear the Senate I would be defending no longer exists. I have often said that the Senate, at its best, can be the conscience of the Nation. I must now vote my conscience, both today and later this week. My conscience will not allow me to ratify the Majority Leader’s actions – not last year and not this year. I will not support advancing this nomination."

Sen. Leahy on filibuster and Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination
(Democrat - Vermont) 03/27/17
"Unless #JudgeGorsuch provides REAL answers to written Qs & senators have ample time for review & debate, he WILL be filibustered"

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing On The Nomination Of Neil Gorsuch To Be An Associate Justice Of The Supreme Court
(Democrat - Vermont) 03/20/17
"Because of the concerns I have about Judge Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy, the process by which he was selected, and the views of the president who nominated him, I hope, Judge, that you will answer my questions, and the questions of all Senators, as clearly as possible."

Sen. Leahy on Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination
(Democrat - Vermont) 03/15/17
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said that “on areas of surveillance and torture, what I’ve seen so far, his views are a lot different than mine.” “When Judge Gorsuch was working for the administration, at least based on the initial things I’ve looked at, he appears to be a cheerleader for President Bush’s views on executive powers,” Leahy said, declining to specify which documents he had seen.

Sen. Leahy: During Sunshine Week, Leahy Calls On Judge Gorsuch To Provide Complete & Truthful Answers To The Judiciary Committee
(Democrat - Vermont) 03/13/17
“I hope next week, when the president’s Supreme Court nominee will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he provides transparent, truthful answers to Senators’ questions,” Leahy said. “I will insist on real answers from Judge Neil Gorsuch, because there are real concerns about his record and his judicial philosophy.”... “The Supreme Court is one of the least transparent parts of our government, and these hearings are one of the only opportunities for the American people to get a glimpse into the institution that protects their most essential rights,” Leahy said. There are real questions about the kind of Justice that Neil Gorsuch would be, and he needs to answer them openly and honestly, not with the kind of dodges and misrepresentations we have heard from other Trump nominees.”... “Given what we have seen thus far from this administration and its nominees – transparency, accountability, and open government are more important than ever,” he said.

Sen. Leahy: Clouds On The Horizon: The Public’s Right To Know Is Under Attack
(Democrat - Vermont) 03/13/17
"Next week the Senate Judiciary Committee will convene for crucial hearings to consider the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the United States Supreme Court. These hearings are a unique moment when all three branches of government converge as senators consider a presidentially appointed nominee to serve on the highest court in the land. I plan to use these public hearings to ask Judge Gorsuch about vital matters affecting millions of Americans, and about how he will approach those issues if he is confirmed.... Next week, Vermonters and all Americans will be able to tune in to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s public consideration of a Supreme Court nominee. While this same process should have been afforded to Chief Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s highly qualified nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, Republicans broke a century of Senate tradition and refused him the opportunity of a public hearing. Now we are faced with a new nominee for the highest court in the land, nominated by a president who has already shown hostility to independent judges who dare to uphold the Constitution, and to journalists so bold as to write the truth. Next week’s hearings mark a time where transparency and a free press can illuminate for the American people exactly what is at stake with this Supreme Court nominee and this presidency. During this Sunshine Week, let us all remember to keep the spotlight shining.

Sen. Leahy: Attorney General Sessions’ Partial Recusal Does Not Go Far Enough
(Democrat - Vermont) 03/02/17
"He must appear in public before the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain why he twice gave misleading testimony under oath and why he failed to disclose such false testimony until prompted by news reports. Such conduct is unacceptable from our nation’s top law enforcement official.... There must be an independent special counsel to investigate Russia’s meddling in our election"

Sen. Leahy: Ensuring Judicial Independence Will Require SENATE Independence
(Democrat - Vermont) 02/13/17
"In light of the unconstitutional actions of our new President, the Senate owes the American people a thorough and unsparing examination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. That should include at least four days of hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee where senators can ask questions of the nominee and also hear from multiple panels of outside witnesses. With the ideological litmus test that President Trump has applied in making this selection, the American people are justified to wonder whether Judge Gorsuch can truly be independent of the President who nominated him, and the moneyed interests that hand-picked him. This question can only be answered in an open and transparent process in the Senate Judiciary Committee, in contrast to the backroom and unilateral decision to deny Chief Judge Garland a hearing."

Sen. Leahy, On Senate Floor: Senator Sessions Lacks Independence To Be Attorney General
(Democrat - Vermont) 02/07/17
“There is simply nothing in Senator Sessions’ testimony before the Judiciary Committee that gives me confidence that he would be willing to stand up to the president.”

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy, On the Nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions To Be The Attorney General Of The United States
(Democrat - Vermont) 02/07/17
"Senator Sessions did not demonstrate to the Judiciary Committee that he would be willing to tell the president “no” on any issue, no matter how objectionable."

Sen. Leahy Comment On Partisan Attacks On The Federal Judiciary
(Democrat - Vermont) 02/04/17
“We need an Attorney General, like Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, willing to lose his or her job to do the right thing. And we need a nominee for the Supreme Court willing to demonstrate he or she will not cower to an overreaching executive. This makes it even more important that Judge Gorsuch, and every other judge this president may nominate, demonstrates the ability to be an independent check and balance on an administration that shamefully and harmfully seems to reject the very concept.”

Sen. Leahy: Statement On the Nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch To The Supreme Court Of The United States
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/31/17
“In light of the unconstitutional actions of our new President in just his first week, the Senate owes the American people a thorough and unsparing examination of this nomination. I had hoped that President Trump would work in a bipartisan way to pick a mainstream nominee like Merrick Garland and bring the country together. Instead, he outsourced this process to far-right interest groups. This is no way to treat a co-equal branch of government, or to protect the independence of our Federal judiciary. “Before Senate Republicans waged the unprecedented blockade of Chief Judge Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court last year, the Senate took seriously its constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on nominees to the highest court in the land. But Republicans abdicated the Senate’s constitutional role by choosing politically-charged obstruction, so that a president who lost the popular vote could nominate extreme candidates to the Supreme Court. “President Trump said he would appoint justices who would overturn 40 years of jurisprudence established in Roe v. Wade. Judge Gorsuch has shown a willingness to limit women’s access to health care that suggests the President is making good on that promise. At his confirmation hearing in 2006, Judge Gorsuch stated, ‘Precedent is to be respected and honored,’ and he said it is ‘unacceptable’ for a judge to try to impose “his own personal views, his politics, [or] his personal preferences.’ Yet last year he tried to do just that, calling for important precedent to be overturned because it does not align with his personal philosophy. From my initial review of his record, I question whether Judge Gorsuch meets the high standard set by Merrick Garland. And with the ideological litmus test that President Trump has applied in making this selection, the American people are justified to wonder whether Judge Gorsuch can truly be an independent justice. I intend to ask Judge Gorsuch about these and other important issues in the coming months.”

Sen. Leahy Announces He Will OPPOSE Sessions Nomination For A.G.; “I have serious doubts that Senator Sessions would be an independent Attorney General.”
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/30/17
“The Attorney General must faithfully serve all Americans. After carefully reviewing Senator Sessions’ extensive record, I am not convinced that he meets that threshold standard. So I must oppose this nomination,” Leahy said. ... Leahy sent to Sessions additional written questions about his views on the Violence Against Women Act, anti-Muslim extremist groups, Russia’s interference with the presidential election, ethics concerns with the new Trump administration. Leahy also specifically asked Sessions about his role in the drafting of President Trump’s executive orders to militarize the southern border and ban refugees from entering the country. Sessions has failed to respond to these questions. “I have serious doubts that Senator Sessions would be an independent Attorney General. There have been months of media coverage about President Trump’s many conflicts of interest and the constitutional concerns they present. Yet Senator Sessions evaded questions on this topic by claiming that he has ‘not studied the issue.’ He has failed to provide answers to many of my written questions, including questions regarding his involvement in the drafting of the anti-Muslim executive order that has already disrupted lives and our national security,” Leahy said. He concluded: “Now, more than ever, we need an independent Attorney General—one who is committed to standing up for the constitutional and statutory rights of the disenfranchised. Unfortunately I do not believe this describes Senator Sessions. For these reasons, I am not confident that Senator Sessions would be an Attorney General for all Americans. I must oppose this nomination.”

After Senator Sessions Fails To Provide Clear Answers, Senator Leahy Demands Answers From AG Nominee
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/25/17
Senator Patrick Leahy on Wednesday released additional written questions to Senator Jeff Sessions after the Attorney General nominee failed to directly answer Leahy’s questions about his views on the Violence Against Women Act, anti-Muslim extremist groups, Russia’s interference with the presidential election, ethics concerns with the new Trump administration, and other matters. Today’s follow up comes days after Senator Sessions failed to provide clear answers to written questions, refusing even to say whether he considered VAWA’s constitutionality to be “reasonably defensible.” Sessions’ other responses on whether he would follow established recusal standards as Attorney General raised serious concerns about his independence. “Our nation’s chief law enforcement officer must be independent and fair. Senator Sessions’ failure to provide direct answers to my written questions raises serious concerns that he would not be an independent Attorney General. The Judiciary Committee must have answers before we consider this important nomination,” Leahy said.

Sen. Leahy Releases Follow Up Questions To AG Nominee Sessions. . . Written Questions Sent Tuesday Focus On Violence Against Women Act, Conflicts Of Interest
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/17/17
Additionally on Tuesday, all nine Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee sent the nominee a letter [LINK] calling on him to allow investigations of Russia hacking to proceed and to recuse himself from those proceedings if he is confirmed. Senator Leahy’s written questions to Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions can be found online.

Sen. Leahy Op-Ed: Jeff Sessions, an extremist then and now
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/08/17
Sen. Patrick Leahy column: “Mr. Sessions is a throwback to a shameful era which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past. It is inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a US attorney, let alone a US federal judge. He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.” (Senator Edward Kennedy, March 13, 1986) After four days of hearings and extensive testimony, Jeff Sessions’ nomination was rejected by a Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. ... also look at what the nominee has said and done since that time. When I pushed in 2009 to advance the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill championed by Kennedy, it was Sessions who sought to derail it. He asserted at a Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill that he was “not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination.” When I worked across the aisle in 2013 to reauthorize and greatly expand the Violence Against Women Act to protect students, immigrants, LGBT victims, and those on tribal lands from domestic violence and sexual assault, Sessions was one of just a handful of Senate Republicans to oppose it. And in 2015, it was Sessions who led the opposition to a resolution I offered in the Senate Judiciary Committee that simply reiterated the basic principle that “the United States must not bar individuals from entering into the United States based on their religion.” My amendment was supported by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the committee, including the Republican chairman. Sessions has repeatedly stood in the way of efforts to promote and protect Americans’ civil rights. He did so even as other members of the Republican Party sought to work across the aisle to advance the cause of living up to our nation’s core values of equality and justice

Further Comments Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) On Senator Jeff Sessions’ Nomination To Be The Attorney General Of The United States
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/04/17
"The American people deserve to learn about Senator Sessions’ record at the public Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Therefore it is especially and increasingly troubling that less than one week before hearings are set to begin, Senator Sessions still has not been fully responsive to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding his nomination. As a former ranking member of this Committee, Senator Sessions is well aware of the seriousness with which this Committee takes the confirmation process. This includes nominees providing senators with all the materials necessary to fairly evaluate a nominee’s record, including responsive materials required by the Committee questionnaire. However, my staff continues to find missing materials in public searches. For example, it appears that Senator Sessions has not produced any interviews during his time as Alabama Attorney General or as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. Production of these materials is anything but a new requirement; it is a crucial and longstanding practice of the Judiciary Committee. I hope we can expect that before our hearing begins next Tuesday, every effort will be taken to ensure that we have all that we need to move forward in considering Senator Sessions’ nomination.”

Floor Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/29/16
"[F]or the past two years the Republican Party has enjoyed solid majorities in both the House and Senate. They control the schedule and the process. They can decide which legislation to call up for debate, and frankly for all intents and purposes, they can decide whether anything gets done around here. A good example is the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. If he had been treated like other Supreme Court nominees throughout the entire history of this country, he would have received a hearing and a vote and he almost certainly would have been easily confirmed just as he was when he was nominated to the DC Court of Appeals. Instead, the Republican leadership did not even give Judge Garland a hearing, much less a vote. The Republican Senators refused to do their job."

Letter from 8 Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats to Chairman Grassley on Sen. Sessions nomination to be Attorney General
(Democrat - ) 11/28/16
“We all have personal and cordial relationships with Senator Sessions and know him to be a strong advocate for his political positions. But as you know, his job as attorney general, if he is confirmed, will be different; he will have to be an independent attorney general who is willing to set aside personal beliefs and political positions in service of larger obligations.... When our country is struggling with so many divisions, the committee and the entire Senate must ask whether Senator Sessions is the right man to lead the agency charged with securing and protecting the constitutional and civil rights of all Americans,”

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee, On Reports Of Senator Jeff Sessions’ Nomination To Be The Attorney General Of The United States
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/18/16
“The Attorney General serves as the chief law enforcement officer in the country. The Attorney General must be independent and fair. The Attorney General must be deeply committed to the rule of law and must ensure that all people are treated equally before the law. This means that he or she is also the chief protector of civil rights and civil liberties for everyone in our Nation. That has never been more important than in this moment, when hate crimes have spiked across the country, especially against Muslim and LGBTQ Americans. And when we have a President-elect who has proposed religious tests, a return to torture, and a deportation force that threatens to remove millions of immigrants. Senator Sessions and I have had significant disagreements over the years, particularly on civil rights, voting rights, immigration and criminal justice issues. But unlike Republicans’ practice of unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s nominees, I believe nominees deserve a full and fair process before the Senate. The American people deserve to learn about Senator Sessions’ record at the public Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.”