Call your senators and tell them to slow and ideally stop the parade of Trump’s lousy and unqualified judicial appointees.
When he was minority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell did everything he could to slow-walk, stymie, and outright stop the Obama administration’s choices to fill federal judgeships.
Now that Trump is in office and McConnell is leading the Senate, he is trying to cram through as many right-wing judicial candidates as possible before November 2018. Unfortunately that means he’s also trying to cram through a great deal of lousy and unqualified judicial candidates. If he succeeds, he will warp the courts for decades to come and undermine their fundamental credibility as a means for delivering justice.
McConnell is deliberately choosing people who are on the young side and who would not be put forward even under a more standard Republican administration.
Some of the nominees are straight-up unqualified–either getting ‘unqualified’ ratings from the American Bar Association (ABA) or being pushed through before the ABA can finish an assessment and assign a rating.
At least a few of these nominees have struggled with basic questions such as, ‘Do you believe Brown vs Board of Education [the SCOTUS ruling that outlawed segregation in public schools] was correctly decided, yes or no?’ It’s hard to underestimate the damage that McConnell’s quest could do.
The only defense that Democrats have against this onslaught is to slow-walk or block the worst of the judicial nominations. They have been doing this and have had some success.
But! McConnell is feeling the pressure to shove through as many judges as he can. He has bitterly criticized his Democratic colleagues for making sure that he’s reaping what he sowed under the Obama administration, and he has begun violating Senate norms in an effort to warp the courts.
One of those norms is the blue slip. A senator from the home state of a judicial nominee can withhold a blue slip, indicating a lack of support for that person. Historically, it is unusual for a nominee who lacks one or both blue slips to gain confirmation.
Back in October 2017, McConnell indicated that he would not honor the blue slip tradition. He quickly revoked the statement, but Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and actually acts on blue slips, said in November 2017 that he would override it due to what he regarded as Democratic abuses of the practice. (Never mind how Republicans abused the blue-slip system under Obama. Ahem.)
In addition, GOP activists are worried that their window for borking the judiciary is closing. CNN has been airing ads from a group called Judicial Crisis Watch, urging folks to call their senators, complain about the Democrats’ tactics, and continue to shove through Trumpian picks.
Anyway, here’s what you can do.
Call your members of Congress and say you support the Democrats’ checking of Trump’s judicial nominees, and you want it to continue.
If your senators are Republican, urge them to urge the Trump administration to choose better-qualified, less ideological nominees, to stop advancing candidates who have bad ABA ratings, and to stop flouting Senate traditions and norms.
If your senators are on the judiciary committee, it is extra-important that you call. Check the link below to see if either of your senators are members:
Note also that during the week of May 28, 2018, Senators are in their home districts, not Washington, D.C.
Sample script for Democratic Senators: “Dear Senator (Lastname), I am (Firstname Last name from town, zip code). I am calling to express support for Democratic efforts to slow down and block the appointment of federal judges who are unqualified or who would never be considered in a more moderate political climate. Trump and Mitch McConnell are deliberately attempting to warp the court, and by extension, justice itself, for decades to come. I am glad to see that Democratic senators are pushing back, and I want them to continue to do so. Their opponents call it game-playing; I call it defending the court system from judges who are unjust. Please carry on slow-walking and stopping bad judicial candidates from being placed on the federal bench. You are doing what I want you to do, and I will remember your efforts when it comes time to vote. Thank you for hearing me out.”
Sample script for Republican Senators: “Dear Senator (Lastname), I am (Firstname Last name from town, zip code). I am calling to express anger over the desperate Republican push to confirm as many unqualified and unsuitable judicial appointees as they can before November comes. When he was in the minority, Senator Mitch McConnell did everything he could to slow-walk and stop nominees put forward under the Obama administration. Now, McConnell is just reaping what he sowed. He and Senator Chuck Grassley should not be allowed to flout Senate norms to avoid the fate that they chose for themselves when they used Senate norms and traditions to push back against Obama-era nominees. Know that I am watching what is happening, and your actions on this matter will influence how I vote, both for you, and your colleagues, and for Republicans in general. I want a functional judiciary, not one that is riddled with judges who make decisions that undermine justice itself. Thank you for listening to me.”
Read about the advertising campaign urging people to call their Senators to oppose the Democrats’ efforts to limit damage to the courts:
Read about how the Trump administration is redoubling its efforts to cram through lousy and unqualified judicial candidates in hopes of warping the court system:
Read a Politico piece that details how Senator McConnell is bound and determined to shove through as many lousy and unqualified judges as he can before this Congressional session ends:
Read a November 2017 Vox piece on how the Republicans are trying to defeat and destroy the tools available to the minority party for pushing back against bad judicial nominees:
Read a November 2017 U.S. News & World Report story on how Senator Chuck Grassley stands ready to ignore the blue slip tradition in the interest of advancing Trump’s judicial picks:
Read about two judicial candidates that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance them even though both hold “not qualified” ratings from the American Bar Association (note that Brett Talley has since withdrawn his nomination). The article also mentions that the ABA says the Trump administration is nominating candidates faster than it can vet them:
Read a December 2017 Washington Post piece on Trump nominees with ABA “unqualified” ratings, and how the “unqualified” numbers stack up to past presidencies:
Read a December 2017 Politico piece on how, when faced with ABA “unqualified” ratings, the GOP is attacking… the ABA:
Read a bit of good news from December 2017 about how Republican Senator John Kennedy did his job and through straightforward, deft questioning, revealed just how unprepared judicial nominee Matthew Petersen was. Petersen’s embarrassing performance forced him to withdraw: