CNN: Sen. Warren Silenced During Sessions Debate

ELIZABETH WARREN SILENCED BY SENATE GOP: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell charged Senator Elizabeth Warren with violating Senate rules against impugning another senator during a Tuesday night floor speech opposing Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, reported CNN.

Warren was reading from a letter written in 1986 by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., which opposed Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship. The letter stated that “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge.”

McConnell claimed that Warren’s reading of the letter violated Rule XIX, which prohibits Senators from ascribing “to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.”  Senate Republicans upheld the rebuke by a vote of 49 to 43, which removes Warren’s ability to speak during the remaining hours of debate on Sessions’ nomination, according to NBC.

Senator Cory Booker stated that he was “proud tonight of Sen. Warren. She stood and told her truth. To see this body act as it did tonight is disappointing to me,” reported The Hill. Booker tweeted that McConnell didn’t just silence Warren – “he silenced civil rights icon Coretta Scott King.”

TRUMP TO MEET WITH MODERATE DEMOCRATS TO GAIN GORSUCH VOTE: President Trump invited Senate Democrats from multiple red states to lunch “in hopes of wooing their support for his Supreme Court nominee,” reported CNN. The four senators invited are all up for reelection in 2018, and among the 10 senators facing pressure from conservative and liberal groups – including our sister organization Alliance for Justice, reported Time.

“It’s full steam ahead,” Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice, told Time. “We plan to win this fight.”

Alliance for Justice was also listed among SCOTUSblog’s key groups in the Supreme Court confirmation process.

IMMIGRATION BAN LIKELY TO GO TO SCOTUS: “A Justice Department lawyer on Tuesday said courts should not second-guess President Trump’s targeted travel ban, drawing skepticism from a three-judge federal appeals panel weighing the limits of executive authority in cases of national security,” reported The New York Times.

The court is expected to deliver its decision on President Trump’s immigration ban within days. However, “no matter how the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rules — in a decision that is expected within days — an appeal to the United States Supreme Court is likely,” the Times continued.

Opinion: American People Will Reject Gorsuch Nomination

NAN ARON: TRUMP MUST PICK AN ALTERNATIVE NOMINEENan Aron, president of our sister organization Alliance for Justice, predicted that “the American people and Senate will reject the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch” in an opinion piece at The Nation. “We are confident Americans will conclude that to avert a disaster, Donald Trump will have to find an alternative nominee who is unflinchingly independent; who recognizes the progress made in our nation over the past 100 years; and who when seated on the Court will take the American people not forward, not backward,” stated Aron.

In response to the criticism leveled at Gorsuch, Trump has repeated his calls for the Senate to “go nuclear” to get Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. “If we end up with that gridlock I would say if you can, Mitch, go nuclear,” Trump said, according to The New York Times. “That would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was caught up in the web.” McConnell has thus far denounced Trump’s urgings to use the nuclear option, stating that it will be a decision made by the Senate – not the president.

INCREASING PENALTIES FOR PROTESTERS: Lawmakers in Republican-controlled statehouses are introducing legislation that will restrict the rights of protesters. In North Dakota, “a lawmaker has introduced a bill that would allow motorists to run over and kill any protester obstructing a highway as long as the driver did not do it intentionally. Bills that would increase penalties on unauthorized protests have also been introduced in Michigan and Washington. Last week in Minnesota, a House committee approved legislation that would increase penalties and charge demonstrators the cost of policing protests,” reported NPR.

Judges Halt Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

TRUMP’S EXECUTIVE ORDER SPARKS PROTESTS, REINFORCES NEED FOR COURTS: On Saturday night, several rulings across the nation temporarily halted certain components of Trump’s executive order targeting Muslims and refugees.U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly’s ruling “blocked part of the president’s actions, preventing the government from deporting some arrivals who found themselves ensnared by the presidential order. But it stopped short of letting them into the country or issuing a broader ruling on the constitutionality of Mr. Trump’s actions,” The New York Times reported.

In her order, Judge Donnelly stated, “The petitioners have a strong likelihood of success in establishing that the removal of the petitioners and others similarly situated violates the rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

The order had the potential “for irreparable harm to hundreds of immigrants and lawful visitors to this country. Our courts today worked as they should as bulwarks against government abuse or unconstitutional policies and orders. On week one, Donald Trump suffered his first loss in court,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero in a statement.

The ACLU was also successful in Massachusetts, when “two federal judges there decreed that travelers who are legally authorized to be in the United States shouldn’t be detained at or deported from Logan International Airport for a period of seven days,” according to the The Huffington Post.

Senate Democrats responded to the executive order by planning a rally at the Supreme Court, reported The Hill. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged House and Senate Democrats to “come to express our solidarity” and “demand the President withdraw his disreputable executive order.”

TRUMP SCOTUS NOMINEE TO BE ANNOUNCED TUESDAY: Trump announced via Twitter that he will announce his nominee to the Supreme Court on television at 8:00PM EST Tuesday, January 31st. This is two days earlier than he had previously planned to announce his nominee.

MCCONNELL BALKS AT TRUMP’S ‘NUCLEAR OPTION’ ENDORSEMENT:  “That’s not a presidential decision. That’s a Senate decision,” Senator Mitch McConnell told Politico in an interview Friday. “What I’ve said to him, and I’ve stated publicly and I’ll say today: We’re going to get this nominee confirmed.” However, McConnell has still not ruled out the use of the nuclear option.

Trump to Announce SCOTUS Pick February 2nd

TRUMP NARROWS SCOTUS LIST TO FOUR?: Above the Law reported that Judges Neil Gorsuch, Thomas Hardiman, William Pryor, and Raymond Kethledge top Trump’s list for the Supreme Court. The National Law Journal outlined a few key facts on Gorsuch, including his opposition to class actions.

Judge Gorsuch has “challenged the notion that courts should defer to administrative agencies when they interpret the law,” according to CNN. Gorsuch’s position on the issue “is more extreme than Justice Scalia…it would be hard to overstate the damage it would cause this nation and the American people,” Dan Goldberg, legal director of our sister organization Alliance for Justice told CNN.

“We are prepared to oppose every name on Trump’s list,” Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, said in a New York Times article. “The progressive, civil rights community will be united in opposition to either of those prospects or anyone else on the list.”

President Trump announced via Twitter that he will name his nominee next Thursday, February 2nd.

LAWSUIT SEEKS MORE INFORMATION ON SESSIONS: A suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asserts that eight federal agencies have failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to Sen. Jeff Sessions’ record. According to The Hill, journalist Jason Leopold and Ryan Shapiro, who filed the suit, feel the record will “shed light on Sessions’ history as a state and federal attorney general and as a lawmaker.”

At the Montgomery Advertiser, Constitutional Accountability Center President Elizabeth Wydra warned that Sessions “misrepresents ‘equal and impartial justice,’” stating that “his extensive record – at times defying fundamental protections written in the text and underscored by the history of the U.S. Constitution – offers little evidence that he can be ‘the People’s lawyer’ and fairly execute the mission of the Department his is nominated to lead.”

Politico: Trump Plans to Announce SCOTUS Nominee Next Week

TRUMP TO DISCUSS SCOTUS WITH MCCONNELL, SCHUMER, FEINSTEIN: “President Donald Trump will meet Tuesday afternoon with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to discuss his Supreme Court choice, according to an administration official,” Politico reported.  

McConnell stated that he is “confident we’ll get a Supreme Court nominee confirmed,” in a FOX News Sunday interview. McConnell has also refused to rule out the use of the “nuclear option,” which would reduce the majority needed to confirm the nominee from 60 to 51 votes.

According to the LA Times, Judge Neil Gorsuch is now the leading contender for Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. 

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE DELAYS SESSIONS VOTE: Senator Dianne Feinstein requested to delay the Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Jeff Sessions’ Attorney General nomination until next week, citing the need for more time to review the nominee and his records. “This nomination is a very big deal,” said Feinstein in an article at The Hill. “Our staff needs time to go through these answers, and we need time to put them in context.”

The vote will be held next week.

SESSIONS WILL NOT RECUSE HIMSELF FROM DOJ TRUMP INVESTIGATIONS: Sessions expressed to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he is “not aware of a basis to recuse myself” from investigations involving the president and does not see a problem in impartiality, despite his role in Trump’s campaign for the presidency, reported Politico. “If a specific matter arose where I believed my impartiality might reasonably be questioned, I would consult with Department ethics officials regarding the most appropriate way to proceed,” said Sessions.

CNN: Trump Has “a Good Sense” of His SCOTUS Nominee

“I THINK IN MY MIND I KNOW WHO IT IS”: Trump has “a good sense” of who he plans to nominate to the Supreme Court, according to CNN. CNN reported that Judges William Pryor and Diane Sykes are widely considered to be at the top of his list. 

Bloomberg BNA put out a short profile on Judge Steven Colloton, who is also thought to be near the top of Trump’s list. Bloomberg drew attention to two of Colloton’s opinions in favor of Tyson Foods Inc., which “are a prime example of how a more conservative court could make it harder for workers to bring wage claims against employers,” according to our sister organization Alliance for Justice. 
OBAMA’S JUDICIAL LEGACY: President Obama nominated over 300 federal judges in his presidency – most of whom were “either women, African Americans or persons of color,” reported NBC. The piece quoted the president of our sister organization, Nan Aron, who noted that unfortunately, “Republicans slow-walked or stonewalled dozens of federal judicial nominations.”

Reuters: “Potentially Nasty” Supreme Court Fight Looms

TRUMP NARROWS LIST AHEAD OF “POTENTIALLY NASTY” SCOTUS FIGHT: A Fortune article today listed the top five contenders for the empty Supreme Court seat as Judges William Pryor Jr., Neil Gorsuch, Diane Sykes, Raymond Kethledge, and David Stras. “Sykes is now the overall favorite for two reasons,” reported Fortune. “First, unlike all the current Supreme Court Justices who all went to Yale or Harvard, she did not attend an elite coastal law school—a good thing for her because many Trump supporters want a Justice who is not from the Ivy League. Second, if Trump indeed wants to get someone on the court quickly, Sykes would face an easier confirmation than Pryor Jr.”

Trump met with Pryor on Saturday, and has hinted “he had two favorites on the list of 21, Pryor and Sykes, although there is no indication that he’s made a final decision,” according to The Washington Times.

Both Democrats and Republicans are gearing up for a tough Supreme Court confirmation fight. Reuters reported that the Judicial Crisis Network “has said it will spend at least $10 million on advertising and grassroots efforts to pressure Senate Democrats to back Trump’s nominee.” Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice Action Campaign and our sister organization Alliance for Justice, said the high level of public interest in the vacancy will counter the “deep pockets” of the other side.

“I don’t think we’ll need $10 million given the outcry expressed already,” said Aron.

CALLS CONTINUE FOR SESSIONS’ RECUSAL, REJECTION: “Democrats are demanding that Sessions, Donald Trump’s pick to serve as attorney general, abstain from confirmation votes as long as he remains in the Senate — arguing that he shouldn’t be voting for Cabinet officials he will have to oversee as the nation’s top law enforcement official,” Politico reported. Sessions has previously indicated that he will recuse himself from voting on his own confirmation as Attorney General, but a “Sessions spokeswoman declined to respond to questions on whether he could vote for other nominees.”

Six state attorneys general have sent a letter urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject Sessions’ nomination for attorney general. According to the Associated Press, the “prosecutors said they had ‘grave concern’ that Sessions would ‘diligently and fairly enforce all laws protective of civil rights, public safety, health and welfare.’” Their letter echoes statements made by Democratic senators who have previously stated their intention to reject Sessions.

USA Today Editorial: Sessions “Would Not Be Our Choice”

CIVIL RIGHTS RECORD CONTINUES TO PLAGUE SESSIONS: Sessions’ “encouraging promises” at his confirmation hearing “cannot erase his often hostile record on civil rights, nor grave concerns about whether he will rise to the toughest challenges of the job” of Attorney General, wrote the USA Today editorial board.

“As the nation marks the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, the future of civil rights in this country will soon rest in the hands of a new president and in large part his attorney general, who must champion the rights of all Americans. President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for that job, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is a troubling one on that score,” the editorial continued.

Sessions’ troubling civil rights record has prompted multiple Democratic senators to reject Sessions, including Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif,), Al Franken (D-Minn,), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), reported The Huffington Post. According to Buzzfeed’s Legal Editor Chris Geidner, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider Sessions’ nomination on January 24th.

TRUMP TEAM PREPS FOR SCOTUS BATTLE: Trump has started meeting with potential Supreme Court candidates – including Judge William Pryor of the Eleventh Circuit, according to Above the Law. Trump has previously vowed quick action to fill the empty Supreme Court Seat, with plans to announce a nominee “within about two weeks” of his inauguration, according to The New York Times.

Newsweek has published short profiles on three of the nominees; William Pryor, Diane Sykes, and Thomas Hardiman. Our sister organization, the Alliance for Justice, has reviewed all of the names on Trump’s short list, and has compiled the records and biographies of those individuals in their Trump Reports.

While Trump meets with potential nominees, his team, “led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, is gently sussing out what it would take to win enough support in the Senate to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court — a surprisingly tough prospect with the threat of a filibuster looming and a quick deadline set by Trump,” reported CNN. Republicans need to sway eight Democrats to meet the 60-vote threshold needed to supersede any filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee.

Article: His Judges Are the Obama Legacy That Republicans ‘Can’t Undo’

OBAMA ‘TRANSFORMED’ FEDERAL COURTS: “Republicans cannot wait to begin dismantling President Barack Obama’s accomplishments, but there’s one thing they can’t undo, even with full control of Congress and the White House: his judicial legacy,” Huffington Post reports. Obama won confirmation of 329 judges to lifetime seats and “tilted the partisan makeup of circuit courts,” and he made the courts more diverse. Yet Republican obstructionism has contributed to President-elect Trump’s inheriting another 103 vacancies, according to the article, headlined “How Barack Obama Transformed the Nation’s Courts.”

“While the GOP leaders of the Senate are congratulating themselves for putting politics ahead of the Constitution, they should realize that on their watch judicial emergencies multiplied across the U.S. and many more Americans were denied access to justice,” said Nan Aron, president of our sister organization Alliance for Justice.

“The pernicious dynamics that pervade the Supreme Court and appellate processes have now even infected the district process, creating a judicial vacancy crisis,” said law professor Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond, who tracks judicial nominations.

Huffington Post says Obama sharply increased diversity of the federal judiciary.  “For the first time, the majority of appeals court judges are women and minorities,” the publication notes. “Seven states have their first female circuit court judge, and five have their first African-American federal judge. Obama put more Latino, Asian-American and LGBT judges on federal courts than any previous president. The nation got its first Native American female federal judge on his watch.”

“Obama has shattered all records for appointing diverse judges in terms of ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation,” Tobias said. “Forty-two percent of his appointees are women. He also appointed more Asian-Americans in his tenure than all other presidents combined and 10 times as many LGBT judges as any other president.”

SUPREME COURT VACANCY: SCOTUSblog and Bloomberg BNA have articles looking at the record of Raymond Gruender, who is on Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees. CNN, meanwhile, examines the politics of not only Trump’s first selection but also a second selection round, if he gets it, and says that “liberal advocates are hoping that a Democratic show of force on the first nomination serves as a warning to Trump not to put up an uncompromising conservative for a more consequential opening.”

AFJ: Nomination Fight Could Be Biggest in Supreme Court’s History

PREPARING FOR AN UNSPARING NOMINATION FIGHT: As President-elect Trump vowed to name a Supreme Court nominee within about two weeks of his inauguration, our sister organization Alliance for Justice warned of an all-out effort by its allies to defeat some of those he might pick. AFJ President Nan Aron told The New York Times, “This could be the biggest fight in the history of Supreme Court nominations.”

Trump’s nominee likely would return the court, now shorthanded with eight justices, to the same kind of philosophical divisions it saw before Justice Antonin Scalia died last year, and with Justice Anthony Kennedy casting a swing vote in a number of key cases. If Trump is faced with a second high court appointment, however, he “could transform American jurisprudence,” according to The Times.

“An entire century of progress could well crumble,” Aron told the newspaper. Trump has spoken publicly, including at a news conference on Wednesday, of picking justices in the mold of archconservative Scalia. Meanwhile, Justice Kennedy is 80 years old and the court’s senior liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, are 83 and 78, respectively. Other media reporting on Trump’s comments about the court on Tuesday included McClatchy, Reuters, CNN, and Politico. SCOTUSblog, profiling potential nominees, looked at William Pryor here and Steven Colloton here.

CIVIL RIGHTS IS FOCUS ON SESSIONS’ SECOND DAY: Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions’ record “indicates that we cannot count on him to support state and national efforts toward bringing justice to the justice system,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, NPR reported. NPR summed up: “Booker, the first sitting senator to testify against a fellow senator during a confirmation hearing, said Sessions’ record shows he won’t protect people of color, women, LGBT communities, immigrants or voting rights.”

Also testifying against the Alabama Republican’s confirmation were Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., an icon of the civil rights movement, and Rep. Cedric Richmond, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. All three men are African-American, as are three witnesses who testified opposite them in Sessions’ support, including William Smith, the first African-American counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Among other witnesses questioning or decrying Sessions’ civil rights record were leaders of the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Related commentary and coverage included New York Times, “[Sen. Chuck] Schumer Will Oppose Confirmation of Jeff Sessions”; Salon, “Jeff Sessions would be a disaster for the LGBT community: Trump’s attorney general pick has spent his career opposing equality at every level”; Dallas Morning News editorial, “Jeff Sessions is wrong for attorney general; he should be rejected”; Newark Star-Ledger editorial, “Booker’s bad manners? Sessions deserves it”; and Ari Berman in The Nation, “Jeff Sessions Claims to Be a Champion of Voting Rights, But His Record Suggests Otherwise: He would be one of the most dangerous attorneys general in modern US history.”