News Roundup

TRUMP WILL USE SAME SCOTUS SHORTLIST FOR NEXT VACANCY: President Trump told The Washington Times he will be using the same list of candidates for any future Supreme Court vacancies that he used to select Justice Neil Gorsuch. The list of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees was significantly influenced by the Federalist Society and The Heritage Foundation.

EXPERTS SAY BREAKING UP THE 9TH CIRCUIT WON’T BENEFIT TRUMP: President Trump has said he’s considering breaking up the 9th Circuit in an attempt to end “judge shopping.” The president has claimed that when people want a ruling against him, “Everybody immediately runs to the 9th Circuit.” However, lawyers of all political ideologies “forum shop” across the country, reported The Washington Examiner.

In comments to the Examiner, Daniel Goldberg, legal director at our sister organization Alliance for Justice, said Trump would have a difficult time accomplishing that task. “I’m not sure the president realizes that he doesn’t have the unilateral authority to break up the 9th Circuit,” Dan noted.

Even if Trump broke up the 9th Circuit, legal experts of diverse political ideologies agree that that would not necessarily achieve Trump’s desire to stop forum shopping. “You can do a lot in terms of forum shopping by going to district courts, and breaking up a circuit makes no difference in that process,” said Caroline Frederickson, president of the American Constitution Society.

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.”

Questions Raised About Gorsuch’s Comments in Classroom

FORMER GORSUCH LAW STUDENT SAYS GORSUCH TOLD STUDENTS WOMEN ‘MANIPULATE’ MATERNAL LEAVE: ​While teaching an ethics class in Colorado, Judge Neil Gorsuch asserted that law firms should be able to question women looking to be hired about their intentions to have children, warning that women take advantage of their employers for maternity benefits and “manipulate” companies as early as the interview process, alleged Jennifer Sisk, one of Gorsuch’s former law students, in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee and an NPR Politics article.
“He interrupted our class discussion to ask students how many of us knew women who used their companies for maternity benefits, who used their companies to — in order to have a baby and then leave right away,” Sisk said. When only a few students raised their hands, he said, “Come on, guys. All of your hands should be up. Many women do this,” according to Sisk. “He kept bringing it back to that this was women taking advantage of their companies, that this was a woman’s issue, a woman’s problem with having children and disadvantaging their companies by doing that.”
NEIL GORSUCH NOMINATION HEARINGS BEGIN TODAY: The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court begin today. The hearing can be viewed on C-SPAN.

DOJ Releases Thousands of Gorsuch Documents

DOJ RELEASES 144,000 PAGES OF GORSUCH DOCUMENTS: “The Wednesday night release of the more than 144,000 pages of documents — pursuant to a February 21 request from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking member Dianne Feinstein — comes less than two weeks before Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing and could shed light on his work during his relatively brief tenure serving in the George W. Bush administration,” reported CNN​. While the majority of the documents will be made available to the public, 3,100 pages “will be made available only to selected committee staff members because they are protected under ‘constitutional or common law privileges’ and DOJ has ‘certain confidentiality interests’ in them,” according to Politico.

Sessions Should Recuse Himself from Flynn Investigation: Schumer

SCHUMER: JEFF SESSIONS MUST RECUSE HIMSELF: Attorney General Jeff Sessions must recuse himself from the investigation into Michael Flynn’s contact with Russians, asserted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Sessions’s recusal is required by the Justice Department’s own rules and regulations,” said Schumer in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “Most important, Sessions’s recusal from this matter is important not only to comply with the law but also to ensure that the public can have faith that the investigation is being conducted in a thorough and impartial way.”

OPINION: GORSUCH IS A DANGER TO LGBT+ RIGHTS: Harper Jean Tobin, the Director of Policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality expressed concern over Gorsuch’s record on LGBT+ rights in a letter to the editor of The New York Times that Gorsuch’s “’religious liberty’ opinions are truly sweeping”, citing cases where he ruled against LGBT+ people. She concluded that “the signs are simply too strong that Judge Gorsuch’s America is one in which L.G.B.T. people can be refused service at restaurants, hotels and doctors’ offices, and employers could hang an ‘L.G.B.T. Need Not Apply’ sign.”

Opposition to Gorsuch’s Nomination Continues

DEMOCRATIC OPPOSITION TO GORSUCH: Concerns are mounting that Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, will not be willing or able to function independently from the president. “Given the administration’s disdain for the judiciary, any nominee to the Supreme Court, particularly by this president, must be able to demonstrate independence from this president,” wrote Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in an opinion piece at The New York Times. On Sunday, Trump’s administration made it clear that they expect the judicial  branch to be loyal to Trump when Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser to Trump, expressed his belief that “a district judge in Seattle cannot force the President of the United States to change the laws and our Constitution because of their own personal views” and that “the President’s power…will not be questioned,” reported People for the American Way.

More than 200 groups are actively working to inform the public about the danger of Gorsuch, reported Bloomberg Politics. Some conservatives are comparing the progressive opposition to the Gorsuch nomination to the controversy over Robert Bork in 1987, using the comparison to argue that Democrats are being too harsh. But an article in The Daily Beast argues that “Rather than remembering the Bork appointment as something to avoid, this is a time to look back at Senator Kennedy’s campaign as a model for how to handle Gorsuch in the coming weeks.”

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION WITHDRAWS OBJECTION TO INJUNCTION AGAINST TRANSGENDER STUDENTS: The Trump administration submitted a legal brief “withdrawing the government’s objections to an injunction that had blocked guidance requiring that transgender students be allowed to use restrooms that match their gender identity,” reported The Chicago Tribune.

The Obama administration had appealed the injunction.  But the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, decided to no longer challenge it in court – leaving in place a ruling that effectively thwarts the rights of transgender students.

The decision “signaled a significant change in the government’s approach to transgender issues under President Trump” according to The New York Times.

Appeals Court Won’t Reinstate Travel Ban

APPEALS COURT RULES NOT TO REINSTATE TRAVEL BAN: A panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit unanimously agreed to uphold the decision that blocked Trump’s executive order on travel, The Washington Post reported. After the decision, Trump tweeted “SEE YOU IN COURT,” leading many to believe the case will reach the Supreme Court.

Nan Aron, president of our sister organization Alliance for Justice, released a statement on the decision, writing, “[t]he action by the Ninth Circuit shows us once again just how important an independent judiciary is, as a check on overreach or misguided actions of the other branches. It also highlights the importance of all the federal courts, including the ones at the circuit and district levels. Of course, all eyes are now on the Supreme Court, not just because this case could well be headed there – but also because we have a nominee about to be considered for a seat on the Court. And it’s more important than ever that the nominee, Neil Gorsuch, answer all questions about whether he can be an independent check on an executive whose disregard for the law has put his administration in crisis-a-day mode.” A portion of the statement appeared in an article at The Washington Examiner.