Peter Keisler

Right Wing Reaction to Souter's Retirement

Here's a quick collection of early right-wing reactions to the news that Justice David Souter will be retiring from the Supreme Court at the end of this term - it will continue to be updated as new statements are released:

Wendy Long (Judicial Confirmation Network):

1. The current Supreme Court is a liberal, judicial activist court. Obama could make it even more of a far-left judicial activist court, for a long time to come, if he appoints radicals like Diane Wood, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. A new Justice in this mold would just entrench a bad majority for a long time.

2. If Obama holds to his campaign promise to appoint a Justice who rules based on her own "deepest values" and what's in her own "heart" — instead of what is in the Constitution and laws — he will be the first American President who has made lawlessness an explicit standard for Supreme Court Justices.

3. The President and Senators need to be careful about, respectively, nominating and appointing a hard-left judicial activist. Americans who elected Obama may have done so out of fear for the economy or other reasons, but they did not elect him because they share his views on judges. By a margin of more and 3 to 1, Americans want Supreme Court Justices who will practice judicial restraint and follow the law, not jurists who will indulge their own personal views and experiences in deciding cases.

4. As Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has pointed out, a judge who decides cases based on her personal and political views, instead of what the law says, will have a hard time fulfilling her oath to dispense justice impartially. Senators have a constitutional duty to rigorously scrutinize the nominee on this score, and vote "no" if the nominee cannot establish that she will follow the law, rather than her own values and beliefs, as the President has suggested.

Ed Whelan:

Souter has been a terrible justice, but you can expect Obama’s nominee to be even worse. The Left is clamoring for “liberal lions” who will redefine the Constitution as a left-wing goodies bag. Consider some of their leading contenders, like Harold Koh (champion of judicial transnationalism and transgenderism), Massaschusetts governor Deval Patrick (a racialist extremist and judicial supremacist), and Cass Sunstein (advocate of judicial invention of a “second Bill of Rights” on welfare, employment, and other Nanny State mandates). Or Second Circuit judge Sonia Sotomayor, whose shenanigans in trying to bury the firefighters’ claims in Ricci v. DeStefano triggered an extraordinary dissent by fellow Clinton appointee José Cabranes (and the Supreme Court’s pending review of the ruling). Or Elena Kagan, who led the law schools’ opposition to military recruitment on their campuses, who used remarkably extreme rhetoric—“a profound wrong” and “a moral injustice of the first order”—to condemn the federal law on gays in the military that was approved in 1993 by a Democratic-controlled Congress and signed into law by President Clinton, and who received 31 votes against her confirmation as Solicitor General. Or Seventh Circuit judge Diane Wood, a fervent activist whose extreme opinions in an abortion case managed to elicit successive 8-1 and 9-0 slapdowns by the Supreme Court.

...

American citizens have various policy positions on all these issues, but everyone ought to agree that they are to be addressed and decided through the processes of representative government, not by judicial usurpation. And President Obama, who often talks a moderate game, should be made to pay a high price for appointing a liberal judicial activist who will do his dirty work for him.

The American Center for Law and Justice:

“The reported retirement of Justice Souter marks the beginning of President Obama’s legal legacy – a legacy that will move this country dramatically to the left,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. “With reports that Justice Souter will step down at the end of the term, President Obama now has a green light to begin reshaping the federal judiciary. Based on the appointments at the Department of Justice, it’s clear that President Obama will name a Supreme Court nominee who will embrace an extremely liberal judicial philosophy. There’s no illusion here – President Obama is poised to reshape the nation’s highest court. Once a nominee is named and the confirmation process begins, it’s important that the nominee faces full and detailed hearings – with specific focus on the nominee’s judicial philosophy including how the nominee views the constitution and the rule of law. The American people deserve nothing less.”

Operation Rescue:

"Operation Rescue will actively oppose any nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court that will disregard the lives of the pre-born and uphold the wrongly-decided case of Roe v. Wade.

"Obama received greater than expected opposition to his nomination of extremist pro-abort Kathleen Sebelius to HHS. He can only expect that opposition will continue to grow if he has the poor sense to appoint a justice that will promote abortion from the bench.

Susan B. Anthony List:

"Elections have consequences, and the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation battle is likely to further entrench President Obama's dedication to the abortion agenda. The President has said he would like 'common ground' on abortion policy. This is an especially relevant objective when you consider yesterday's release of public opinion data by the Pew Research Center showing a sharp decline in support for legal abortion. Choosing a judicial nominee who wants to enshrine the right to an unrestricted abortion in the United States Constitution would certainly be a step in the wrong direction. Appointing an abortion extremist to replace Justice Souter on our nation's highest court will continue the trend of activist court decisions do little reduce abortion in our nation."

Americans United for Life:

Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life, promised her group would help lead the charge against any pro-abortion activist Obama may name to the high court.

“We will work to oppose any nominee for the Supreme Court who will read the Freedom of Choice Act into the Constitution in order to elevate abortion to a fundamental right on the same plane as the freedom of speech," she told LifeNews.com.

Yoest said the jurist Obama names to the Supreme Court will tell the American public whether he is serious about reducing abortions or keeping it an unlimited "right" that has yielded over 50 million abortions since 1973.

“This nomination represents a test for a President who has expressed a public commitment to reducing abortions while pursuing an aggressive pro-abortion agenda," she said. "Appointing an abortion radical to the Court -- someone who believes social activism trumps the Constitution -- further undermines efforts to reduce abortion."

Priests for Life:

Upon hearing news reports of Justice David Souter's retirement from the US Supreme Court this June, Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, commented, "This will unleash a Supreme battle. Judicial activism in our nation has given us a policy of child slaughter by abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Now the left will scream about 'no litmus tests' on abortion, but the fact is that all of us observe litmus tests at all times. If a racist or terrorist is unfit for the highest court in the land, why would a supporter of child-killing be any more fit? This is the question we will pose again and again during the process of replacing Justice Souter."

Richard Land:

Land told Baptist Press, "This retirement will, of course, not impact the court's balance. President Obama will undoubtedly nominate someone who is as liberal as, if not more liberal than, liberal David Souter, and thus you will just have an old liberal replaced by a young one. President Obama's ability to sell himself to the American people as a centrist will be hampered severely by his nomination of what will inevitably be a radically liberal justice."

Committee For Justice:

Given the economic crisis, your ambitious legislative agenda, and your promises to rise above partisanship, one would think you would eschew a bitter, distracting confirmation fight and a sparking of the culture wars by naming a consensus nominee that moderate Republicans and Democrats can embrace. While we remain open to evidence to the contrary, it is our belief that potential nominees such as Sonia Sotomayor, Kathleen Sullivan, Harold Koh, and Deval Patrick are so clearly committed to judicial activism that they make a bruising battle unavoidable.

We realize that, in the past, you have said that you want judges who rule with their hearts and you have even expressed regret that the Warren Court “didn’t break free” from legal constraints in order to bring about “redistribution of wealth.” But now would be a good time for you to clarify if you feel that you may have gone too far by endorsing judicial activism. For example, you could make it clear that you agree with Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent statement that “judges should make their decisions based only on the facts presented and the applicable law” (response to written question from Sen. Arlen Specter).

We also hope that you resist the pressure you will inevitably face from the various identity groups that dominate the Democratic base. It would be a shame if you chose a nominee based on their race, gender, or sexual identity, rather than focusing exclusively on qualifications and judicial philosophy.

We remind you of your opposition to gay marriage, your commitment to individual Second Amendment rights, your support of the death penalty, and the great value you place on the role of religion in society. We hope you will not contradict those positions by choosing a Supreme Court nominee who has questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty, expressed an extreme view of the separation of church and state, or wavered on the questions of whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and an individual right to own guns. Also, given your promise to move the nation “beyond race,” it would be hard for you to explain the
nomination of someone who has expressed support for racial preferences, which polls indicate are now even more unpopular as a result of your election.

While many Americans – including some conservatives – are willing to give your experiment in using honey to coax cooperation from other nations a chance, the public is also looking for reassurance that our nation’s interests and sovereignty will always come first. Thus, now would be an awful time to choose a Supreme Court nominee who believes that American courts should put greater reliance on foreign law.

Finally, we remind you that, in the first year of his Administration, George W. Bush successfully nominated two former Clinton nominees – Roger Gregory and Barrington Parker – to the appeals courts in an effort to set a bipartisan tone. Now would be the perfect time for you to match the previous President’s gesture by renominating three unconfirmed Bush appeals court nominees who have bipartisan support – Peter Keisler, Judge Glen Conrad, and Judge Paul Diamond. Such a gesture would engender good feelings among Senate Republicans and would set a positive tone heading into what might otherwise be a bitter confirmation fight.

Concerned Women for America:

"The anticipated retirement of David Souter from the U.S. Supreme Court launches a national debate over the proper role of judges," stated Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America. "President Obama stated during the campaign that judges should rule according to 'empathy' for preferred classes of people, such as homosexuals and some ethnic groups, but not others. America, however, is a nation founded on the belief that we are all created equal and that the rule of law provides justice for all by following a written Constitution, not the whims and feelings of judges. Senators must live up to their constitutional duty to fully examine any nominee to determine if they respect the Constitution above their own opinions."

Mario Diaz, Esq., CWA's Policy Director for Legal Issues, said, "If President Obama's nominee is in the mold of his recent choices, Senators and citizens must be engaged now more than ever in the confirmation process. Several of President Obama's nominees put forth as 'moderates' by the White House have turned out to be outside the mainstream upon careful review. This is why Senators must be diligent and take the time to closely examine whether each candidate will abide by the Constitution or make the Court their personal fiefdom."

Family Research Council:

In the speech that catapulted Barack Obama to fame in 2004, the young Democrat said, "There is not a liberal America or a conservative America. There is a United States of America." Five years later, the same man will face his biggest test to prove it: the nomination of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Since the election, Washington has been prepared for a vacancy on the high court, most likely from the aging, Left-leaning justices. Yesterday, reports confirmed that Justice David Souter, 69, will be the first to exit, giving the new President his first crack at reshaping the Supreme Court. Will he plow ahead with a pro-abortion, anti-faith radical (as he did with 7th Circuit Court nominee David Hamilton) this early in his presidency--or will he bide his time on a full-blown congressional war and nominate a judge that both sides can agree on?

As a candidate, Barack Obama prided himself on his ability to work with conservatives. His first 100 days, however, have been a case study in unilateralism. When asked why he moved away from bipartisanship, the President dodged the question and said, "Whether we're Democrats or Republicans, surely there's got to be some capacity for us to work together, not agree on everything, but at least set aside small differences to get things done."

On Wednesday, President Obama decided his best way to "get things done" was to use congressional rules to block any meaningful participation by Republicans on controversial policies like health care reform and education. While those decisions can be overturned, lifetime appointments cannot. As both sides are painfully aware, nothing in this administration's legacy will withstand the test of time like President Obama's judicial nominees.

To that point, the White House would be wise to take into account the growing public consensus on the sanctity of human life. While some people are pointing at social conservatives as the cause of the Republicans' woes, a new poll suggests that the GOP's platform on life may be its biggest appeal. According to the most recent Pew Research Center poll, American support for abortion is experiencing its steepest decline in at least a decade. Since last August, the proportion of people who believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases has dropped from a small majority--54%--to 46%. The drop is particularly noticeable in the youngest generation (18-29) whose support for abortion dropped by five points (from 52% to 47%) in just nine months. The conservative trend is even affecting women. Fifty-four percent said abortion should be legal in most or all cases last summer, while less than half (49%) feel that way today.

 Traditional Values Coalition:

The U.S. Supreme Court is on the verge of taking a huge lurch to the far left with the exit of Justice Souter from the Court. Souter is certainly no loss for Constitutionalists, but he will most likely be replaced with someone far worse. During the election, President Obama stated that he wanted to appoint judges who had “empathy” and who understood what it was to be poor, black or gay. He clearly stated that he wanted judges who would not confine themselves to the Constitution or to the original intent of the Founding Fathers.

From Obama’s public statements, it is clear that he will appoint a Justice who views the U.S. Constitution like a Wikipedia entry that can be edited, revised and distorted for the political agenda of the Justice. Obama wants a Supreme Court nominee who will ignore the Constitution; use his “feelings” to determine legal decisions; use foreign law to impose a liberal political agenda; and use the power of the Court to redistribute the wealth. The President has stated that he believes the Courts should be used to promote “economic justice,” – code for judge-ordered income distribution.

President Obama once mentioned former Chief Justice Earl Warren as the ideal person to serve on his Supreme Court. Warren was one of the most notorious left-wing judicial activists in our nation’s history. The President is likely to appoint a Justice who believes in the use of foreign law in interpreting cases that come before the Court. The use of foreign law in issuing rulings in American court cases will undermine self-government and destroy our Constitutional government. Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have an important role in advising and consenting to such nominations. They must seriously challenge the political views of anyone chosen by Obama for this lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. No nominee who believes in using foreign law in making court decisions has any place on the Court. Our self-government depends upon it.

The GOP's Evolving Definition of "Advice and Consent"

Both The Hill and Politico are reporting on a letter [PDF], signed by all forty-one Republicans in the Senate, sent to President Obama yesterday warning him that they will not hesitate to filibuster his judicial nominees if they are not consulted before he makes his picks:

President Barack Obama should fill vacant spots on the federal bench with former President Bush’s judicial nominees to help avoid another huge fight over the judiciary, all 41 Senate Republicans said Monday.

In a letter to the White House, the Republican senators said Obama would “change the tone in Washington” if he were to renominate Bush nominees like Peter Keisler, Glen Conrad and Paul Diamond. And they requested that Obama respect the Senate’s constitutional role in reviewing judicial nominees by seeking their consultation about potential nominees from their respective states.

“Regretfully, if we are not consulted on, and approve of, a nominee from our states, the Republican Conference will be unable to support moving forward on that nominee,” the letter warns. “And we will act to preserve this principle and the rights of our colleagues if it is not.”

In other words, Republicans are threatening a filibuster of judges if they're not happy.

My, how times have changed.  I seem to remember a time, just a few years ago when President Bush was in office, when the Republican understanding of the Constitution's "advice and consent" clause was that it entitled the President to make nominations of his choosing while the Senate's role was merely to confirm or reject his nominees.

In fact, that is exactly what they said, repeatedly.  For example, here is Sen. Orrin Hatch saying it:

It seems to me that the only way to make sense of the advice and consent role that our Constitution's framers envisioned for the Senate is to begin with the assumption that the President's constitutional power to nominate should be given a fair amount of deference, and that we should defeat nominees only where problems of character or inability to follow the law are evident.

In other words, the question of ideology in judicial confirmations is answered by the American people and the Constitution when the President is constitutionally elected. As Alexander Hamilton recorded for us, the Senate's task of advice and consent is to advise and to query on the judiciousness and character of nominees, not to challenge, by our naked power, the people's will in electing who shall nominate.

To do otherwise, it seems to me, is to risk making the federal courts an extension of this political body. This would threaten one of the cornerstones of this country's unique success – an independent judiciary.

But it wasn't just Republican Senators making that argument; it was the standard argument of all the conservatives who were active on the issue of judicial nominations. 

Here is John Eastman testifying [PDF] before the Senate Judiciary Committee making that point explicitly:

[R]ecent claims that the advice and consent clause gives to the Senate a co-equal role in the appointment of federal judges simply are not grounded either in the Constitution’s text or in the history and theory of the appointment’s process.

And here he is making it again:

Article II of the Constitution provides that the President "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint...Judges of the supreme Court [and such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish]." As the text of the provision makes explicitly clear, the power to choose nominees — to "nominate" — is vested solely in the President, and the President also has the primary role to "appoint," albeit with the advice and consent of the Senate. The text of the clause itself thus demonstrates that the role envisioned for the Senate was a much more limited one than is currently being claimed.

Here is the same point being made by the Judicial Confirmation Network:

"It is apparent from the rhetoric included in the 'Memorandum of Understanding' that at least 14 Senators - the signers of this compromise - fail to understand the Constitution's 'advice and consent' clause. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution reads: '[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court .' The Senate's advice and consent role is part of the 'appointment' process, not the 'nomination' process, which the Constitution commits solely to the President."

And here it is once again, this time being made by Steven Calabresi, who just so happens to have been a co-founder of the Federalist Society:

The President was supposed to play a leading role in the selection of judges and that role is defeated by giving a minority of senators a veto over presidential nominees.

Second, giving a minority of Senators a veto over judicial nominees will violate the separation of powers by giving a Senate minority the power to impose a crude litmus test on judicial nominees, thus undermining judicial independence.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Isn't it amazing how, just a few years removed from arguing that the Senate's sole role in the confirmation process was to either confirm or reject nominees and trying to blow up the Senate with the "nuclear option" in order to get rid of the filibuster, the Republicans in the Senate are now demanding a veto over the President's nominees and threatening to filibuster if they don't get their way?

Specter Tests Obama's Bipartisanship

A few weeks ago I made a short mention of the fact that various right-wing judicial activists were calling on Barack Obama to re-nominate a few of President Bush's judicial nominees who never received confirmation as a sign of bipartisanship. 

It appears as if this idea is gaining traction because yesterday the Committee for Justice posted a letter that Sen. Arlen Specter sent to President Obama asking him to do just that:

I write to respectfully suggest that, as a sign of bipartisanship, you renominate some of President George W. Bush’s circuit court nominees who were not confirmed prior to the adjournment of the 110th Congress. To do so would echo the bipartisanship President Bush demonstrated when he renominated one of President Clinton’s judicial nominees, Judge Roger Gregory, to a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Several of President Bush’s circuit court nominees had bipartisan support and were not confirmed due to asserted time constraints. I believe these nominees in particular deserve your consideration. Mr. Peter Keisler, nominee to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, had bipartisan support and garnered praise from across the country, including the editorial boards of The L.A. Times and The Washington Post. In addition, Judge Paul Diamond, nominee to the Third Circuit, and Judge Glen Conrad, nominee to the Fourth Circuit, had bipartisan support, including the support of their Democratic home state Senators. All three nominees were rated “well qualified” by the nonpartisan American Bar Association and would be excellent candidates for renomination.

It was just the other day that I noted that many of these activists were lying in wait and saving their ammunition for anticipated court battles so it is probably safe that assume that if President Obama declines to acquiesce to their request, they'll immediately use it as a justification for obstructing his judicial nominees.

Of course, as demonstrated by his recent efforts to work with Republicans to pass the stimulus bill only to watch them unanimously vote against it, Obama probably doesn't have much to gain by trying to reach out to them since they'll inevitably just find some other excuse to justify their obstruction, regardless of what he does. 

Federalist Society Founder Frets They'll Lose Control Over Federal Courts

It was not too long ago that I wrote a post about how complicated it is to try and make accurate statements about judicial confirmation rates and how Republicans and right-wing judicial activists exploit that fact to make it seem as if President Bush has somehow gotten a raw deal when it comes to seeing his judges confirmed. 

Today comes an op-ed by Federalist Society founder Steven Calabresi in the Wall Street Journal making the same point and issuing a dire warning that if Barack Obama is elected, we're going to see a complete take over of the federal judiciary by liberal activist judges:

One of the great unappreciated stories of the past eight years is how thoroughly Senate Democrats thwarted efforts by President Bush to appoint judges to the lower federal courts.

Consider the most important lower federal court in the country: the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In his two terms as president, Ronald Reagan appointed eight judges, an average of one a year, to this court. They included Robert Bork, Antonin Scalia, Kenneth Starr, Larry Silberman, Stephen Williams, James Buckley, Douglas Ginsburg and David Sentelle. In his two terms, George W. Bush was able to name only four: John Roberts, Janice Rogers Brown, Thomas Griffith and Brett Kavanaugh.

Although two seats on this court are vacant, Bush nominee Peter Keisler has been denied even a committee vote for two years. If Barack Obama wins the presidency, he will almost certainly fill those two vacant seats, the seats of two older Clinton appointees who will retire, and most likely the seats of four older Reagan and George H.W. Bush appointees who may retire as well.

The net result is that the legal left will once again have a majority on the nation's most important regulatory court of appeals.

The balance will shift as well on almost all of the 12 other federal appeals courts. Nine of the 13 will probably swing to the left if Mr. Obama is elected (not counting the Ninth Circuit, which the left solidly controls today). Circuit majorities are likely at stake in this presidential election for the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal. That includes the federal appeals courts for New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and virtually every other major center of finance in the country.

The interesting thing about Calabresi's handwringing that "majorities are ... at stake ... for the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eleventh Circuit Courts" is his willingness to overlook the basic fact that the Republican majorities on a lot of circuit courts are at stake mainly because Republicans have majorities on nearly every circuit court in the country.

Take a look at this breakdown from the Alliance for Justice of current circuit court justices by appointing president and you'll see that, with the exception of the 9th Circiut and ties on the 2nd and 3rd Circuits,  Republican judges outnumber Democratic judges across the board:

DC Circuit: 7 Republican - 4 Democratic

1st Circuit: 3 Republican - 2 Democratic

2nd Circuit: 6 Republican - 6 Democratic

3rd Circuit: 6 Republican - 6 Democratic

4th Circuit: 7 Republican - 4 Democratic

5th Circuit: 13 Republican - 4 Democratic

6th Circuit: 10 Republican - 6 Democratic

7th Circuit: 8 Republican - 3 Democratic

8th Circuit: 9 Republican - 2 Democratic

9th Circuit: 11 Republican - 16 Democratic

10th Circuit: 8 Republican - 4 Democratic

11th Circuit: 7 Republican - 5 Democratic

Federal Circuit: 8 Republican - 4 Democratic

Overall, Republican circuit court judges outnumber Democratic judges 103-66.  And the reason for that is because for 20 of the last 28 years, Republicans have occupied the White House and have filled the federal bench with judges who share their ideology.  As the AFJ points out:

Judges appointed by Republican presidents dominate the Supreme Court, the courts of appeals, and the district courts. Over 58% of all federal judges were appointed by Republican presidents. George W. Bush has appointed nearly 37% of all sitting federal judges.

After two decades of Republican presidents stacking the federal bench with judges who share Calabresi's right-wing Federalist Society ideology, creating an situation in which that ideology dominates nearly every court in the land, Calabresi is suddenly worried about balance and fairness and breathlessly warning that the "federal courts hang in the balance" because "nothing less than the very idea of liberty and the rule of law are at stake in this election?" 

Give me a break.

Dubya's Judicial Victory Lap Marred By Memory Lapse

At the Federalist Society's "The Presidency and the Courts" forum yesterday in Cincinnati, President Bush took time to rally the troops and bask in their loving glow as he recounted his battles over the issue of judicial nominees and reminded his audience that, just as he had promised, he put two new justices on the Supreme Court who shared their right-wing ideology:

When asked if I had any idea in mind of the kind of judges I would appoint, I clearly remember saying, I do. That would be Judges Scalia and Thomas ... And I made a promise to the American people during the campaign that if I was fortunate enough to be elected my administration would seek out judicial nominees who follow that philosophy ... I have appointed more than one-third of all the judges now sitting on the federal bench, and these men and women are jurists of the highest caliber, with an abiding belief in the sanctity of our Constitution ... America is well served by the 110th justice of the United States Supreme Court -- Samuel A. Alito ... I was very proud to nominate for the Supreme Court a really decent man, and a man of good judgment, and that would be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts.

Bush then went on to lament the politicization of the confirmation process, pointing to the treatment of Miguel Estrada as a prime example, and blasting those who engaged in "harmful tactics and maneuvers to thwart nominees": 

Unfortunately, Miguel Estrada's experience is not an isolated one. Many other well-qualified nominees have endured uncertainty and withering attacks on their character simply because they've accepted the call to public service. Those waiting in limbo include: Peter Keisler for the D.C. Circuit, Rod Rosenstein for the Fourth Circuit, and dozens of other nominees to district and circuit courts across this country.

...

The broken confirmation process has other consequences that Americans never see. Lawyers approached about being nominated will often politely decline because of the uncertainty and delay and ruthlessness that now characterizes the confirmation process. Some worry about the impact a nomination might have on their children, who would hear their dad or mom's name dragged through the political mud. This situation is unacceptable, and it's bad for our country. A judicial nomination should be a moment of pride for nominees and their families -- not the beginning of an ugly battle.

...

The American people expect the nomination process to be as free of partisanship as possible, and for senators to rise above tricks and gimmicks designed to thwart nominees ... In Washington, it can be easy to get caught up in the politics of the moment. Yet if we do not act to improve the confirmation process, those who are today deploying harmful tactics and maneuvers to thwart nominees will sooner or later find the tables turned.

Oddly, he didn't mention the most high profile vicitim of this problem - Harriet Miers:

According to “WithdrawMiers.org,” a coalition formed by the Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly, Fidelis, and others for the sole purpose of opposing the nomination: “Miers’ … few published writings offer no real insight or assurance of a judicial philosophy that reflects a commitment to the Constitution.” And on issues where Miers had something of a record, WithdrawMiers.org was not impressed: “Ms. Miers fought to remove the pro-abortion plank in the American Bar Association platform, yet fought this Bush Administration in ending the ABA’s role in vetting judges which is known to be biased against judges whose judicial philosophies reflect a clear commitment to the Constitution. She donated money to a Texas pro-life group, yet helped establish an endowed lecture series at Southern Methodist University that brought pro-abortion icons Gloria Steinem and Susan Faludi to campus.”

Like WithdrawMiers.org, Americans for Better Justice sprang up simply to oppose the Miers nomination. Founded by ultra-conservatives like David Frum, Linda Chavez, and Roger Clegg, ABJ was unconvinced that Miers shared its founders’ right-wing views and began gathering signatures on a petition demanding Miers’ withdrawal: “The next justice of the Supreme Court should be a person of clear, consistent, and unashamed conservative judicial philosophy … The next justice should be someone who has demonstrated a deep engagement in the constitutional issues that regularly come before the Supreme Court — and an appreciation of the originalist perspective on those issues … For all Harriet Miers’ many fine qualities and genuine achievements, we the undersigned believe that she is not that person.”

The right-wing magazine National Review had, in many ways, led the charge against the Miers nomination from the very beginning. Its writers called Miers “a very, very bad pick,” declared her nomination “the most catastrophic political miscalculation of the Bush presidency” and complained that the Right had been forced to endure “an embarrassingly lame campaign from the White House, the Republican National Committee, and their surrogates.”

What caused this gnashing of teeth was the fact that, according to the National Review’s editorial board, “There is very little evidence that Harriet Miers is a judicial conservative, and there are some warnings that she is not … neither being pro-life or an evangelical is a reliable guide to what kind of jurisprudence she would produce, even on Roe, let alone on other issues.”

Others on the Right were just as dismayed by the nomination. American Values’ Gary Bauer explained: “[Harriet Miers] has not written one word, said one word, given a speech, written a letter to the editor on any of the key constitutional issues that conservatives care about and are worried about and want to make sure the court does not go down the road on."

The Wall Street Journal called the nomination a “political blunder of the first order,” lamenting that “After three weeks of spin and reporting, we still don't know much more about what Ms. Miers thinks of the Constitution.”

Stephen Crampton of the American Family Association said Miers is a “stealth candidate for a seat on the Supreme Court [and] is an unknown with no paper trail,” while the Christian Defense Coalition blasted the president, saying his supporters “did not stand out in the rain for 20 hours passing out literature or putting up signs for the President to have him turn around and nominate Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. A nominee in which there is no record of their judicial philosophy or view of the Constitution.”

Back when John Roberts was preparing for his confirmation hearing, Concerned Women for America was praising him as a “highly qualified nominee with extraordinary personal integrity who has proven himself worthy to sit on our nation's highest court.” CWA said “Senators should ignore the ridiculously inappropriate litmus tests and document demands of the radical left” and that Roberts “should receive overwhelming bi-partisan support and confirmation.”

This is in stark contrast to the stand CWA took on Miers: “We believe that far better qualified candidates were overlooked and that Miss Miers’ record fails to answer our questions about her qualifications and constitutional philosophy … We do not believe that our concerns will be satisfied during her hearing." In calling for her withdrawal, CWA revealed their real objection: “Miers is not even close to being in the mold of Scalia or Thomas, as the President promised the American people.” They demanded that the president give them a “nomination that we can whole-heartedly endorse.”

Give ‘Em What They Want, John

As John McCain prepares to deliver his remarks on the future of the judiciary today in North Carolina, it looks like he will be under some close scrutiny from the Right, who are growing fed up with his seeming reluctance to throw them red meat:

In town-hall meetings, Sen. McCain makes a point to explain his positions on terrorism, taxes, the economy, energy and health care. But in his prepared remarks, he never mentions abortion, same-sex marriage, judges or gun rights. When asked, he often responds quickly and moves on.

"Imagine if you were an economic conservative and someone never talked about tax policy unless they were asked about it," said Charmaine Yoest, a vice president at the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group focused on social issues.

Asked whether she thinks Sen. McCain really cares about the abortion issue, she said, "I don't know, and that's his problem."

As such, many of them are launching a campaign to make the issue of judges a centerpiece of the upcoming election:

Conservative leaders also want the party to embrace language that would instruct Senate leaders to make the confirmation of nominees a higher priority. Conservatives say Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) must press Democrats harder to confirm several controversial nominees, such as D.C. Circuit Court nominee Peter Keisler and 4th Circuit Court nominee Robert Conrad Jr.

Manuel Miranda, a former aide to ex-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), circulated a draft Monday of principles for the GOP platform committee to consider. Several conservative leaders quickly endorsed it. 

Paul Weyrich, chairman of the conservative Free Congress Foundation, said he supports including the language on judicial nominees in the party platform.

“I think the more we particularize that whole issue, the more people focus on the topic,” Weyrich said. Making detailed guidelines on judicial nominees part of the platform would also help social conservatives hold McCain to account if he is elected president.

“You can compare what the party says with any subsequent action by its nominees,” said Weyrich. 

And while McCain is delivering his remarks, Republican National Committee officials will be courting right-wing leaders on this effort having “invited social conservative leaders based in and around Washington, D.C., to attend a meeting Tuesday morning where former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) will give them a preview of McCain’s remarks.”   

Already McCain surrogate Sen. Sam Brownback is making the rounds assuring the Right that it’ll like what it hears and, judging by excerpts of McCain's remarks and preliminary press coverage, it certainly looks like that will be the case:  

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Tuesday he would appoint judges in the mold of conservatives John Roberts, Samuel Alito and former Chief Justice William Rehnquist if he were elected in November.

In an excerpt from a speech McCain was to give in Winston-Salem on Tuesday, the Arizona senator said he would "look for accomplished men and women with a proven record of excellence in the law, and a proven commitment to judicial restraint."

"I will look for people in the cast of John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and my friend the late William Rehnquist -- jurists of the highest caliber who know their own minds, and know the law, and know the difference," McCain said.

In fact, so sure is the McCain camp that this speech will win over the Right that it is reaching out to them via GOPUSA seeking donations:   

We have a lot at stake in this presidential election. As a nation, we face many challenges that will require real leadership from our next president. I have said before that this election will be about the big things, not the small things, and I write to you today about one big issue in particular - the future of the U.S. Supreme Court. If one of my Democratic opponents is elected in November, you can rest assured that given the opportunity to appoint judges, they will appoint those who make law with disregard for the will of the people.

There may be at least two vacancies on the United States Supreme Court during the next presidential term. As president, I will ensure that only those judges with a strict interpretation of the Constitution of the United States are appointed. I will nominate judges who understand that their role is to faithfully apply the law as written, not impose their opinions through judicial fiat.

If you want judges who have a clear, complete adherence to the Constitution of the United States and who do not legislate from the bench to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, then I ask that you join my campaign for president today by making a financial contribution.

It Never Ends

It is no secret that, when it comes to the issue of judicial nominees, the Right just likes to fight.  And one of the way the GOP and the Right try to gin up their base in an election year is to make judges an issue, and make unfounded accusations of bigotry against any opponents. They’re at it once again

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday he has not ruled out the option of shutting down the chamber to put fresh pressure on Democrats to confirm President Bush’s stalled judicial nominees.

His statement came after Republicans brought a Judiciary Committee meeting to a near-standstill to vent their frustrations with what they said was Democratic foot-dragging to confirm 10 pending nominees to federal appeals courts. They complained that there have been no committee hearings on nominees since last September, and say that at least nine more nominees need to be confirmed by the end of Bush’s term in order to match the 15 judges the Republican-controlled Senate approved in the final two years of the Clinton administration.

Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, told reporters last month that one of the options to force Democratic action is “shutting down the Senate.” He reiterated that threat this week in an interview with the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

In an interview with The Hill on Thursday, Specter said it was “a possibility” that the GOP would object to motions that allow routine business to proceed on the floor, a move that would stifle Senate action and effectively bring the chamber to a halt.

And once again, the Right is deploying its complementary tactic of ignoring the concerns raised about a controversial nominees’ record or judicial philosophy in favor of simply accusing Democrats of opposing the nominee out of bigotry.  As we’ve noted before:

The Right sees some nefarious ulterior motive at work – and that is how they manage to convince themselves that opposition to [Leslie] Southwick stems not from concerns about his record but from some sort of deep-seeded hatred of Southern white males … the same way they said opposition to Miguel Estrada was really due to anti-Latino prejudice … and opposition to Priscilla Owen was the result of flagrant anti-woman bias … and opposition to William Pryor was actually due to anti-Catholic bigotry … and opposition to Janice Rogers Brown was in actuality rooted in racism

And guess what? Here they go again ... this time with a bit of a twist, as Fidelis circularly accuses Sen. Pat Leahy , who is himself Catholic, of accusing Robert Conrad, who is likewise Catholic, of making anti-Catholic statements:

In the latest attack on 4th Circuit nominee Judge Robert Conrad, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), accused Conrad of making anti-Catholic comments in a letter submitted to a Catholic periodical over nine years ago. Leahy’s accusation comes as Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have come under increased pressure to act on President Bush’s judicial nominations … Anti-Catholic bigotry in America is real, and we welcome efforts to confront it where it truly exists. But in the case of Judge Conrad, there is nothing that even remotely resembles anti-Catholicism.

While that complaint is a bit confusing and probably unlikely to generate any sort of outrage, Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice decided to take a different track and simply accuse Senate Democrats of being anti-Semitic for opposing the nomination of Peter Keisler

Is the fact that Keisler is Jewish similarly contributing to his obstruction by Democrats? There is no way to know. But it’s worth noting that, of the nine appeals court nominees currently being obstructed, three are Jewish.

Of course, it is “worth noting” that three of the nominees are Jewish only if you are attempting to insinuate that opposition to their nominations is rooted in anti-Semitism - despite admitting that you have “no way to know” and absolutely no evidence that that is actually the case.

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Peter Keisler Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Friday 05/01/2009, 11:01am
Here's a quick collection of early right-wing reactions to the news that Justice David Souter will be retiring from the Supreme Court at the end of this term - it will continue to be updated as new statements are released:Wendy Long (Judicial Confirmation Network):1. The current Supreme Court is a liberal, judicial activist court. Obama could make it even more of a far-left judicial activist court, for a long time to come, if he appoints radicals like Diane Wood, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. A new Justice in this mold would just entrench a bad majority for a long time.2. If Obama... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 03/03/2009, 12:49am
Both The Hill and Politico are reporting on a letter [PDF], signed by all forty-one Republicans in the Senate, sent to President Obama yesterday warning him that they will not hesitate to filibuster his judicial nominees if they are not consulted before he makes his picks:President Barack Obama should fill vacant spots on the federal bench with former President Bush’s judicial nominees to help avoid another huge fight over the judiciary, all 41 Senate Republicans said Monday.In a letter to the White House, the Republican senators said Obama would “change the tone in Washington... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 01/30/2009, 6:20pm
A few weeks ago I made a short mention of the fact that various right-wing judicial activists were calling on Barack Obama to re-nominate a few of President Bush's judicial nominees who never received confirmation as a sign of bipartisanship. It appears as if this idea is gaining traction because yesterday the Committee for Justice posted a letter that Sen. Arlen Specter sent to President Obama asking him to do just that:I write to respectfully suggest that, as a sign of bipartisanship, you renominate some of President George W. Bush’s circuit court nominees who were not confirmed... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 10/28/2008, 4:58pm
It was not too long ago that I wrote a post about how complicated it is to try and make accurate statements about judicial confirmation rates and how Republicans and right-wing judicial activists exploit that fact to make it seem as if President Bush has somehow gotten a raw deal when it comes to seeing his judges confirmed. Today comes an op-ed by Federalist Society founder Steven Calabresi in the Wall Street Journal making the same point and issuing a dire warning that if Barack Obama is elected, we're going to see a complete take over of the federal judiciary by liberal activist... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 10/07/2008, 4:43pm
At the Federalist Society's "The Presidency and the Courts" forum yesterday in Cincinnati, President Bush took time to rally the troops and bask in their loving glow as he recounted his battles over the issue of judicial nominees and reminded his audience that, just as he had promised, he put two new justices on the Supreme Court who shared their right-wing ideology: When asked if I had any idea in mind of the kind of judges I would appoint, I clearly remember saying, I do. That would be Judges Scalia and Thomas ... And I made a promise to the American people during the campaign... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 05/06/2008, 9:53am
As John McCain prepares to deliver his remarks on the future of the judiciary today in North Carolina, it looks like he will be under some close scrutiny from the Right, who are growing fed up with his seeming reluctance to throw them red meat: In town-hall meetings, Sen. McCain makes a point to explain his positions on terrorism, taxes, the economy, energy and health care. But in his prepared remarks, he never mentions abortion, same-sex marriage, judges or gun rights. When asked, he often responds quickly and moves on. "Imagine if you were an economic conservative and... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 04/08/2008, 9:01am
It is no secret that, when it comes to the issue of judicial nominees, the Right just likes to fight.  And one of the way the GOP and the Right try to gin up their base in an election year is to make judges an issue, and make unfounded accusations of bigotry against any opponents. They’re at it once again:  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday he has not ruled out the option of shutting down the chamber to put fresh pressure on Democrats to confirm President Bush’s stalled judicial nominees. … His statement came after Republicans... MORE >