AG Sessions’ Remarks Betray “Rank Ignorance”

JUDGE ATTACKED BY TRUMP FOR MEXICAN HERITAGE WILL TAKE DACA CASE: Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge President Donald Trump attacked as “a Mexican” and “a hater” on the campaign trail, will hear the case of Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient who was deported earlier this year, reported NBC News.​

Bojorquez’s lawyers allege that he had active protection under DACA, and that “the government did not provide any documentation explaining the legality of sending him back to Mexico.” In an interview with ABC News, President Trump had previously stated that DACA recipients “shouldn’t be very worried” about being deported. Yet Attorney General Jeff Sessions has now stated that he “can’t promise people who are here unlawfully that they’re not going to be deported,​” reported Politico.

GERRYMANDERING CASE HEADS TO SCOTUS: The United States Supreme Court will hear a case that claims that “the lower house of the Wisconsin Legislature, the State Assembly, was gerrymandered by its Republican majority before the 2012 election — so artfully, in fact, that Democrats won a third fewer Assembly seats than Republicans despite prevailing in the popular vote,” reported The New York Times.

SESSIONS’ REMARKS “BETRAY RANK IGNORANCE”: Attorney General Jeff Sessions criticized a Federal District Court ruling last month that blocked Trump’s travel ban against several majority-Muslim countries, stating that he was “amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.”

Nan Aron, president of our sister organization Alliance for Justice, said in a statement: “These remarks by the Attorney General betray rank ignorance…what makes them even more alarming is that Attorney General Sessions seems so confident that the Supreme Court with Justice Gorsuch on it will uphold the president’s deeply flawed travel ban. Weren’t we just told that Justice Gorsuch would be independent of the Trump Administration?”​​

Sessions’ Impact Strongly Felt at DOJ

SESSIONS MAKES SUBSTANTIAL CHANGES TO DOJ: Attorney General Jeff Sessions has implemented drastic policy changes in the Department of Justice that overhaul the policies and priorities set by the Obama administration, reported The Hill.​ Sessions has “rolled back protections for transgender students that allowed children to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity and rescinded plans to phase out the federal government’s use of private prisons,” called for “a review of reform agreements, known as consent decrees, reached with local police departments to address allegations of misconduct,” and “put ‘sanctuary cities’ on notice, announcing that grant money would be withheld from state and local governments that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities and turn over undocumented immigrants arrested for crimes.”

Sessions appears to be moving back to the “tough-on-crime” policies of the Bush administration, said Alex Whiting, faculty co-director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School. “Obama moved away from that approach, and I think in the criminal justice world there seemed to be a consensus between the right and left that those policies, those rigid policies of the war on drugs and trying to get the highest sentence all the time, had failed,” said Whiting. “I don’t know if he is really going to be able to persuade the department to follow his lead on this.”

Republicans Concoct Plan to Weaken CFPB

REPUBLICANS PLAN TO WEAKEN THE CFPB: House Republicans are working on a plan that could weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, reported The Washington Post. “House Republicans would de-fang the consumer protection agency and make it more susceptible to political shifts by granting more control and oversight to the White House and Congress. One key change would convert the CFPB into an executive agency with a director who can be removed by the president at will. Currently, the director of the independent agency can only be fired for cause.”

Trump’s Travel Ban Gets Full-Court Review

TRUMP’S TRAVEL BAN GETS FULL-COURT REVIEW: The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will bypass its normal process of having a three-judge panel consider the Trump administration’s appeal of a ruling that blocked Trump’s travel ban. The ban denied U.S. entry for people from six predominantly-Muslim countries. Most appeals are resolved with three-person panels, but the decision to have the case heard by the full court “has potential advantages for both sides,” reported the Wall Street Journal. “For the Trump administration, the court’s approach could speed up the ultimate resolution of the case. Whichever side loses has only one option remaining: an appeal to the Supreme Court.”

For the travel ban challengers, which include refugee assistance groups and others represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, “full-court consideration eliminates the possibility that they could have drawn a three-judge panel that is more conservative than the full Fourth Circuit, which has begun to lean in a more liberal direction in recent years after President Barack Obama appointed several judges to the court.”

The case will be considered on May 8th.

FEMALE SUPREME COURT JUSTICES INTERRUPTED MORE FREQUENTLY THAN MALE COUNTERPARTS: A new study found that male Supreme Court justices interrupt their female counterparts “approximately three times as often as they interrupt each other during oral arguments. And the conservative justices interrupt the liberal justices more than twice as often as vice versa,” according to Harvard Business Review. The study examined 15 years of Supreme Court oral argument transcripts, “finding that women do not have an equal opportunity to be heard on the highest court in the land.”

“Blue Slip” Process Vital to Protect Lower Courts

CONSERVATIVE PIPELINE TO THE COURTS: “The Federalist Society has for years been singularly focused on building a farm team of judicial nominees who subscribe to a philosophy that is hostile to the advancement of social and economic progress in the country,” said Nan Aron, president of our sister organization Alliance for Justice, in an article in The New Yorker about the conservative pipeline to the Supreme Courts. “Behind the scenes, during Republican Administrations, they are very engaged in identifying and recruiting for judges candidates who are ultra-conservatives—who are opposed to our rights and liberties across the board, whether it’s women, the environment, consumer protections, worker protections.”

JUSTICE NEIL GORSUCH’S IMPACT ON THE HIGH COURT: BBC News described six upcoming Supreme Court cases in which newly-confirmed Justice Neil Gorsuch could be highly influential, involving President Trump’s travel ban, gun rights, religious freedom, a shooting on the border of Mexico, and voting rights.

 

BLUE SLIPS NECESSARY TO PROTECT LOWER COURTS: Nan Aron, president of our sister organization Alliance for Justice, urged Democrats to “insist the president avoid nominating judges whose philosophies are extreme…immerse themselves in the records of those nominees, and oppose those whose rulings and writings betray radical views.” Aron explained the necessity of protecting the “blue-slip” process that allows home-state senators to decide whether nominees from their states should move forward in a U.S. News & World Report op-ed. The Senate must be very careful in confirming judges because “real harm will be done to millions of people if appeals courts are packed with ideological extremists, who tend to emerge in the absence of bipartisan consultation,” said Aron.

FEDERAL COURT HOLDS THAT TEXAS VOTER ID LAW IS DISCRIMINATORY: A federal judge ruled that a Texas voter ID law was passed with intent to discriminate against minority voters “despite its proponents’ assertions that it was necessary to combat voter fraud,” reported The Hill. ​

“The Base Is Very Fired Up” Over Gorsuch Nomination: Nan Aron

GORSUCH NOMINATION FIGHT CONTINUES: The public outcry over Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination is strong and growing, says Nan Aron, president of our sister organization Alliance for Justice. “It’s really the first time in so many years that individuals across the country, the base of the party, has gotten energized around the Supreme Court,” said Aron in The New York Times. “I think the base would be very unforgiving to Democrats who prevented a filibuster from taking place. The base is very fired up.”

Claims that Democrats’ decision to maintain the 60 vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees is “forcing” Republicans to go nuclear are simply false. “If Democrats don’t stand up for their beliefs and their constituents, they lose by forfeit. But if Democrats fight, they hold open the chance that they could win a broadly acceptable nominee — and whether not they get that, they win the moral high ground,” wrote Ben Wikler, Washington director of MoveOn.org, in an op-ed at The Hill.

Democrats are urging Republicans not to go nuclear, but to instead change the nominee to a more moderate judge. With a partisan fight to confirm an ideologically influenced judge, Republican senators are “profoundly politicizing our highest court and deeply damaging its integrity. This assault on our democracy demands the most robust resistance possible,” wrote The Huffington Post.​

60 VOTE THRESHOLD NOT UNPRECEDENTED: According to The New York Times, Republicans have statistically blocked many more Democratic judicial nominees than the other way around – despite the fact that Republican nominees to the courts have been far less centrist than Democratic nominees. “The failure rate of Democratic nominees to federal trial courts since 1981 has been almost twice as high as the Republican failure rate: 14 percent versus 7 percent. There is also a gap among appeals court nominees: 23 percent to 19 percent. The gap between the parties would be even larger if Democrats hadn’t eliminated the filibuster on lower-court nominees in 2013, allowing Barack Obama finally to fill more judgeships. Even so, Trump has inherited a huge number of vacancies.”

Gorsuch Nomination Passes Judiciary Committee on Party Line Vote

GORSUCH NOMINATION PASSES JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee today on a party-line vote of 11-9, reported USA Today. 41 Democratic senators have now come out to oppose Gorsuch’s nomination and vote no on cloture, leaving Gorsuch unable to clear the 60 vote threshold. His nomination will come before the full Senate for a vote later this week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “has publicly promised to confirm Gorsuch on Friday no matter what,” meaning that “McConnell will invoke the nuclear option to lower that hurdle to 51 votes to make it happen,” reported NPR.

The talking point that Senate Democrats are somehow “to blame for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s threat to change the rules and allow Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed by a simple majority vote” is false, according to Media Matters for America. “In fact, past Senate rule changes effectuated by Democrats have not applied to Supreme Court nominees, and they were made in response to historic GOP obstruction of noncontroversial Obama nominees. Gorsuch, on the other hand, is considered to be a highly ideological nominee who falls to the right of Antonin Scalia.”

Senators Choose Sides on Gorsuch, Rumors of a Deal Surface

TWO RED-STATE DEMOCRATIC SENATORS SUPPORT GORSUCH: Senators  JoeManchin and Heidi Heitkamp announced that they will vote in favor of Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The pair represent West Virginia and North Dakota, two red states that Donald Trump won in the election. Both are up for re-election in 2018, reported The New York Times. Their support is giving Gorsuch “a measure of bipartisan sheen but doing little to dissuade leading Democrats from planning to block him.”

THREE MORE DEMOCRATIC SENATORS OPPOSE GORSUCH: Senators Richard BlumenthalBrian Schatz, and Catherine Cortez Masto have joined 36 other Democratic senators in opposing Gorsuch, bringing the total to 39. Senator Chuck Grassley predicted that Gorsuch will not attain the 60-vote threshold needed to advance his nomination,  according to The Hill.

UNLIKELY DEAL ON GORSUCH: There are reports that Senator John McCain has been looking to strike a deal with Democrats to get Gorsuch confirmed, but that his hopes for success aren’t high. “I’ll have conversations, but I’m not optimistic,” he said, according to The Hill. McCain said a deal would require eight Democratic votes to confirm Gorsuch in return for a promise that Democrats will be able to block a nominee under “extraordinary circumstances” in the future.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has repeatedly said that if Gorsuch cannot reach the 60-vote threshold, the solution is to change the nominee, not change the rules. “Senate Republicans are acting like if Gorsuch doesn’t get 60 votes they have no choice but to change the rules,” he said, according to CBS News. “That is bunk.”

Gorsuch Vote Delayed, Opposition Continues to Rise

DEMOCRATS DELAY VOTE ON GORSUCH BY ONE WEEK: Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee have requested that the vote to confirm Gorsuch be put aside until April 3rd, Judge Neil Gorsuchreported U.S. News & World Report. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated that the full senate vote will be on Friday, April 7th.

GROWING OPPOSITION TO GORSUCH: Senators Hirono, Nelson, Stabenow, Peters, Cardin, Reed, Van Hollen, Murphy, Shaheen, and Durbin have added their voices to the growing number of senators who will oppose Gorsuch, bringing the number of senators opposed so far to at least 25. Gorsuch’s “path to 60 votes is rapidly closing — setting the stage for a nuclear showdown in the Senate as soon as next week,” reported Politico.

Opposition to Gorsuch’s nomination is also growing in the public sphere. An editorial by The Aurora Sentinel called Gorsuch a “fatally flawed” candidate for the Supreme Court, expressing concern that “when it comes to weighing cases affecting what are arguably some of the most important and critical rights bestowed on American citizens, Gorsuch trades his usual legal pragmatism for religious philosophy.”

An op-ed in the Indy Star stated that Gorsuch’s “decisions evidence a person who serves his own views rather than legal mandates and is far out of touch with, and coldly unsympathetic to, the concerns of ordinary Americans.  They portray a jurist who is so persuaded he is right, even when his colleagues disagree, that he heeds his own rigid ideology, avoiding the respectful consideration of different points of view that should characterize an appellate court. Judge Gorsuch pushes the law to reach results that serve his political and social views, and his manipulations contradict what Congress has directed and prejudice people whom Congress has tried to protect.”

While many of Gorsuch’s supporters have lauded his commitment to precedent, there has been a lack of understanding of the impact of precedent. Citing the story of Alphonse Maddin, Stephen Gottlieb stated in an opinion piece at The Hill that “language ordinarily incorporates principles of decency and humanity. Judge Neil Gorsuch repeatedly tried to sound sympathetic…But Judge Gorsuch concluded that the’ plain meaning’ of the statute did not protect Maddin from freezing to death.” He continued, “And there is the underlying difference between a judge like Gorsuch and those more liberal. Gorsuch makes decency jump over hurdles. More liberal judges, probably like Judge Merrick Garland, whom the Republicans would not even bring up for hearings, would make indecency and inhumanity bear the burden of proof. There is nothing in the language of the law that requires judges to be mean.”

Concern Grows Over Gorsuch Nomination

GORSUCH TAKES FIRE OVER “FROZEN TRUCKER” CASE: “The reality is that throughout his career, Judge Gorsuch has shown a pattern of siding in favor of employers, wealthy corporations and Wall Street — against working families in Colorado and around the country,” wrote Ken Grossinger, chairman of the board of our sister organization Alliance for Justice, in an op-ed in The Daily Camera.

“In a disturbing case that has gotten some press, Alphonse Maddin was fired for leaving the cargo-laden trailer of his truck after its brakes froze from subzero temperatures. With no heat in his cab, Maddin had awaited a repair truck for several hours and he got numb, had trouble breathing and lost feeling in his feet,” Grossing continued. “A Tenth Circuit majority in TransAm Trucking v. Administrative Review Board said Maddin deserved reinstatement. An earlier Department of Labor proceeding also favored Maddin. Judge Gorsuch disagreed, saying ‘there’s simply no law anyone has pointed us to giving employees the right to operate their vehicles in ways their employers forbid.’”

Gorsuch’s commitment to textualism – the “belief in the principle that the actual words of a law should be strictly applied by the court” likely goes beyond even that of Justice Scalia, wrote CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan: “Gorsuch would be wise to remember the oft oft-quoted words of Scalia, ‘I’m an originalist and a textualist, not a nut.’ Even Scalia probably would have let the truck driver thaw out at the gas station.”

NO DEAL ON GORSUCH: Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, was quoted in The Washington Times saying any deal to undermine a filibuster on Judge Gorsuch “would be a grave disservice to the process and to the Constitution.”

“Neil Gorsuch has shown how oblivious he is to the realities faced by working people and families in this country,” said Aron in The Washington Examiner. “As usual, Gorsuch’s ruling reflected a bias in favor of big corporations at the expense of working Americans, and that is exactly the bias he will bring to the Supreme Court unless senators step up and reject this nomination.”

“I’ve heard a lot in recent days about how nice and charming he is, and how he’s a true Westerner,” said Alliance for Justice Legal Director in a The Philadelphia Sunday Sun article. “I’ve heard about his dogs and all of his personal attributes. But his record is getting lost. His record in the Court of Appeals shows how he would rule. His record shows that he favors the wealthy and powerful at the expense of regular Americans.”

NEWS COVERAGE ZEROES IN ON GORSUCH’S PERSONALITY, RATHER THAN HIS RECORD: In an interview with FAIR’s CounterSpin, Goldberg discussed the media’s focus on persona over his record. “This isn’t about his intellect or whether he’s a good man or not…the question is if he gets to the Supreme Court, whose side is he gonna be on?” Goldberg continued, “He went out of his way to hide his record but I think if you look at the cases he’s decided and what he has said, this is an extreme nominee. It’s hard to overstate the damage he will do to our country and, more importantly, to everyday Americans.”