Judiciary

Personhood Movement Leaders Say Porter's Heartbeat Bill Is Not Extreme Enough

Janet Porter’s proposed “heartbeat bill” in Ohio, which would criminalize abortion in the vast majority of cases, is so extreme that the Ohio Right to Life Society refuses to back it, but for some anti-choice radicals, it does not go far enough. As we’ve previously reported, Personhood USA wants to put a personhood amendment on the Ohio ballot in 2012, and Personhood Ohio is no fan of Porter’s “heartbeat bill.”

While the personhood movement may appear to be a fringe group, since proponents oppose even draconian legislation like the “heartbeat bill,” the personhood movement is backed by Mike Huckabee, the American Family Association, Liberty Counsel and the Family Research Council. In fact, earlier this year personhood amendment advocates berated Porter on a conference call sponsored by The Oak Initiative’s Transformation Michigan, telling Porter that her bill was not anti-choice enough.

Writing today in WorldNetDaily, Personhood Ohio director Patrick Johnson condemns Porter’s bill for banning abortion in most instead of all cases, the goal of personhood amendments. Johnson is outraged that the bill has exceptions for cases where the life of the mother is at stake, which he says is “never justified,” and is angered that it doesn’t require the state to charge women with murder for having an abortion: “This bill specifically exempts the mother from prosecution. Why does the bill exempt accomplices?” Johnson writes:

The advocates of the Heartbeat Bill have proven their willingness to push one person out of the boat to try to save another. How? By way of the bill's exceptions, its inappropriate penalties, and its counterfeit moral standard.



What is the moral standard that is invoked in the Heartbeat Bill? Is it the Constitution, which says that the government shall not deprive another of life or liberty without a trial by jury? No. Is it the law of God, which says "Do no murder" in Exodus 20 and mandates a public execution for convicted murderers? No, of course not.

In subsections H, I, and J, this bill specifically cites the federal judiciary as the standard of morality and justice. This bill prescribes into law the supremacy of the Supreme Court over both the law of God and the state and federal constitutions. This bill bows the knee to a counterfeit standard of morality at the altar of judicial tyranny. Thus, this bill is rotten to its very foundation. Its design is not to protect the preborn, not to give them justice and certainly not to please "the Father of the fatherless." God's Word is the standard for morality and justice, and His Word is supreme over the opinions of men, but the Heartbeat Bill gets on the wrong side of God's line in the sand.

Even if the Heartbeat Bill did overturn Roe v. Wade and return the issue back to the states, it would not protect preborn children in Ohio. It is our hope that the Ohio Personhood Amendment to the Ohio Constitution would protect the God-given rights of every Ohioan.

Personhood USA Sets Sights On Ohio

Mississippi is set to vote this November on a patently unconstitutional personhood amendment that would criminalize abortion in their state, and ‘personhood’ advocates now strive to put a similar amendment on the ballot in Ohio in 2012. Personhood laws would not only prohibit abortion in all cases but also ban certain forms of birth control and the treatment of ectopic pregnancies by giving legal rights to zygotes. The anti-choice activists hope that Ohio will vote on it at the same time as the swing state’s closely contested presidential election. Right now Ohio is on the brink of passing Janet Porter’s ‘Heartbeat bill’ that would ban abortion in the vast majority of cases, but Porter has taken heat that her prized legislation doesn’t go as far as personhood laws.

The American Family Association, which is financing the personhood campaign in Mississippi, reports that Personhood Ohio, the state affiliate of Personhood USA, wants the amendment, if passed, enforced even if it is struck down by the courts. “There's a firm legal precedent that when the judiciary rules unconstitutionally and immorally, that we have no obligation to respect that law any more than if they would have ordered us to kill our wives,” said Patrick Johnston of Personhood Ohio, “We don't have to obey them:

A campaign is under way in Ohio to place a Personhood Amendment on the 2012 ballot.

Article 1, Section 1 of the Ohio Constitution currently reads: "All persons are, by nature, free and independent and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life..." The Personhood Amendment would add that "the word 'person' or 'persons' applies to every human being at every stage of biological development of that human being or human organism, including fertilization."

The idea is to amend the state constitution to define that a person is a person when human life begins at conception or fertilization. Dr. Patrick Johnston of Zanesville, a family physician who heads the campaign, says the constitutional addition would protect all unborn babies in Ohio, without exception. Personhood Ohio volunteers must now obtain 380,000 signatures to call for the election.

"It's a good state to go directly to the voters to gather enough signatures, and then go to the voters and the ballot box and bypass the committees that end up corrupting good pro-life legislation in the House of Representatives and the Senate," Johnston explains.

That corruption, he sayts [sic], reaches the point where exceptions are made that result in abortions. But he believes Ohio's pro-life leaning is strong, so even if a court rules against it, it does not necessarily mean anything.

"There [are] several constitutional measures we can take," the physician asserts. "One is we can ignore it. There's a firm legal precedent that when the judiciary rules unconstitutionally and immorally, that we have no obligation to respect that law any more than if they would have ordered us to kill our wives. We don't have to obey them."

Nimocks: Bans on Interracial Marriage Were Wrong Because They're Discriminatory, But Bans on Same-Sex Marriage A.O.K.

After his testimony at last week’s DOMA hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Austin Nimocks of the Alliance Defense Fund has been doing the rounds in the right-wing radio circuit. In a recent interview withthe Concerned Women for America’s radio show, Nimocks hit all of the classic anti-marriage-equality arguments, claiming that marriage between a man and a woman “naturally builds families,” and that children do best with two heterosexual parents. Nimocks then tried to discredit the comparison of DOMA to the laws against interracial marriage during the civil rights movement.

“Interracial marriage and the racism that underscored the prohibitions on interracial marriage in this country have nothing to do with the question of same-sex marriage, and for multiple reasons. When you look at it from a big picture, we understand what racism was about. It was about white supremacy and about keeping people apart. And there was an underlying bad associated with that doctrine and that policy that found its way into our laws. Marriage is not about keeping people apart. It’s about bringing together the two great halves of humanity, men and women, for a deep, deep social good. And the drastic difference in those two things cannot be overlooked. And then you look at that and say wait, marriage is about bringing people together, and it doesn’t discriminate on the basis of people’s skin color.”

Hold on a second, Nimocks. So bans on interracial marriage were about keeping people apart, but the bans on same-sex marriage are about bringing people together? And there was an “underlying bad” associated with racism, but there isn’t one associated with homophobia? And marriage shouldn’t discriminate on the basis of skin color, but it should discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation? Excuse me if I’m not exactly compelled to the case you’re making.

It comes as no surprise that the Concerned Women for America or the Alliance Defense Fund are making illogical arguments and holding moral double-standards, but the logical leaps they’re making are becoming more and more obvious as time goes on.

Mat Staver Flaunts His Ignorance About Goodwin Liu

(cross posted to the People For Blog)

Mat Staver of the ironically named Liberty Counsel has a new video up where he takes credit for the shameful filibuster of Goodwin Liu. That clears up so much.

Was it Mat Staver who "exposed" the "extremism" of this extremely qualified nominee? Was it Mat Staver who convinced every Republican senator but one to ignore Liu's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, his detailed written submissions, and his many articles, all of which disproved the lies being told about him? Was it Mat Staver whose keen legal arguments completely discredited conservative legal figures like Ken Starr, Clint Bolick, Richard Painter, and John Yoo, all of whom were part of the vast network of support Liu received from the nation's legal community across the ideological spectrum?

Yeah, right.

No, it was naked partisan politics at its worst and not Mat Staver that sank Goodwin Liu's nomination.

But the video does raise an interesting question: If Staver knows so much about Goodwin Liu, why does he repeatedly call him "Godwin"? Don't you think he would know the man's name after all of his exhaustive research and outreach to senators?

Religious Right Groups And Chamber of Commerce Fail To Block District Court Nominee

Religious Right and pro-corporate groups failed today to block President Obama’s nominee for U.S. District Court in Rhode Island, John McConnell, from receiving an up-or-down vote in the Senate. The Senate invoked cloture on McConnell’s nomination in a 63-33 vote, defeating the filibuster against McConnell. Filibusters against district court judges are extremely rare—only a handful of District Court nominees have ever faced cloture votes, and none have ever been blocked—and many Republicans previously vowed they would never filibuster a judicial nominee.

Today’s vote came after a long wait for McConnell: according to The Providence Journal, the delay caused by the concerted right-wing effort to block McConnell forced Rhode Island’s chief federal judge to “take the unusual step of reassigning more than two dozen civil cases to judges in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.”

Why the tough fight? McConnell faced virulent opposition from the Chamber of Commerce over his role fighting big tobacco companies and lead paint manufacturers. The Chamber and other groups that oppose corporate accountability found allies in the Religious Right groups that decided to fight McConnell as well.

The Conservative Action Project made McConnell a top target of their efforts. The group includes pro-corporate organizations like the 60 Plus Association, National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Limited Government, Citizens United, and American Tax Reform, along with social conservatives such as the Family Research Council, Traditional Values Coalition, Heritage Action, American Values, Liberty Counsel Action, and Eagle Forum. The Conservative Action Project’s Memo to the Movement [PDF] claimed McConnell was unqualified to serve in the judiciary because he was a trial lawyer with a history of challenging big business.

Eagle Forum derided him as a “pro-choice, anti-business, pro-judicial activism nominee” who “has made numerous anti-business statements.” The Family Research Council slammed McConnell for his ties to the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the country’s most prominent civil rights organizations, and Phillip Jauregui’s Judicial Action Group said that his link to the SPLC and the American Constitution Society shows he “supports organizations who support homosexual marriage and oppose conservative politicians.”

While the Corporate Right and the Religious Right of the McConnell nomination failed, many of these organizations will continue to work together to block other qualified judicial nominees and aggravate the country’s burgeoning judicial vacancy crisis.

Iowa GOP Tries To Impeach State Supreme Court Over Marriage Equality

After the Religious Right’s successful campaign, with massive funding from Newt Gingrich, to remove three state Supreme Court justices in the 2010 elections who backed marriage equality, now the Iowa GOP is pushing for the impeachment of the remaining justices. Bob Vander Plaats, the anti-gay activist who led the drive to remove the Justices and heads The Family Leader, has previously called for the resignation of the entire Supreme Court and advocated for their removal over the marriage equality ruling in Varnum v. Brien. He is also building ties with likely presidential candidates as Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Herman Cain have either addressed or plan to speak during The Family Leader’s “presidential lecture series.”

Despite the heightened activism of the state’s social conservatives, Lynda Waddington of the Iowa Independent reports that the impeachment resolution faces an uphill battle:

Iowa House Republicans drew an immediate negative reaction late Thursday when they filed four articles of impeachment, one for each remaining member of the Iowa Supreme Court that participated in an April 2009 decision that struck down a legislative ban on same-sex marriage as a violation of the state’s equal protection clause.

The four House resolutions target Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady (HR 48) and Justices Brent Appel (HR 47), Daryl Hecht (HR 49) and David Wiggins (HR 50) for “malfeasance in office” specifically for their ruling in the Varnum v. Brien case, saying that each justice “exercis[ed] functions properly belonging to the legislative and executive departments.” …

The articles of impeachment drafted and filed by the five legislators were also immediately attacked by Justice Not Politics, a nonpartisan group that formed in advance of the 2010 retention election in hopes of bolstering support for the three justices on the November ballot and to stress the non-political nature of the Iowa Judicial Branch.



Opposition to retention was led by Bob Vander Plaats, who formed Iowa for Freedom following an unsuccessful GOP gubernatorial primary bid. The ouster movement was well financed by out-of-state anti-gay interest groups. Currently, Vander Plaats is employed as head of The Family Leader organization, which has traveled the state in hopes of “building on the momentum” of the November ousters.

The three ousted justices were replaced by Gov. Terry Branstad in February, following a winnowing of candidates by the State Judicial Nominating Commission.

Although Republicans hold a majority in the Iowa House, it remains doubtful that the articles of impeachment will live beyond their referral to the Judiciary Committee.

Exposing David Barton's Bunk

Today, People For the American Way released a new report entitled "Barton’s Bunk: Religious Right ‘Historian’ Hits the Big Time in Tea Party America" written by PFAW Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery that exposes David Barton's shoddy pseudo-history and why it matters: 

Barton’s growing visibility and influence with members of Congress and other Republican Party officials is troubling for many reasons: he distorts history and the Constitution for political purposes; he encourages religious divisiveness and unequal treatment for religious minorities; and he feeds a toxic political climate in which one’s political opponents are not just wrong, but evil and anti-God.

Scholars have criticized Barton for presenting facts out of context or in misleading ways, but that hasn’t stopped him from promoting his theories through books, television, and, yes, the textbooks that will teach the next generation of Americans. He promotes conspiracy theories about elites hiding the truth from average Americans in order to undermine the nation from within. Last summer, he declared that liberal and media attacks on the Tea Party were just like attacks on Jesus. In February, Barton spoke at the Connect 2011 Pastors Conference, where he said that Christians needed to control the culture and media so that “guys that have a secular viewpoint cannot survive.” Said Barton, “If the press lacks moral discrimination, it’s because we haven’t been pushing our people to chop that kind of news off.”

Barton’s work is not just an academic exercise. It is meant to have a political impact. For Barton, “documenting” the divine origins of his interpretations of the Constitution gives him and his political allies a potent weapon. Barton promotes a false reality in which anyone who opposes any element of his political agenda stands in opposition to both the Founding Fathers and to God. He believes that everything in our society – government, the judiciary, the economy, the family – should be governed according to the Bible, and he promotes a view of the Bible and Jesus that many Christians would not recognize. Opponents, even Christians, who disagree with Barton about tax policy or the powers of Congress are not only wrong, they are un-American and anti-religious, enemies of America and of God.

President Obama is a particularly frequent target of Barton’s. In January, one of his WallBuilders Live radio shows was titled “Why is Obama Trying to Remove God from the United States?” In March, right-wing “news” service WND quoted Barton accusing Obama (falsely of course) of being “engaged in a pattern of ‘willfully, deliberately’ repudiating America's Christian heritage.”

Those are the kind of accusations long favored by the Religious Right, and they are destructive. Claims that political opponents are evil and are actively trying to destroy Americans’ freedoms poison the public arena, make constructive civic discourse nearly impossible, and have the potential to incite acts of violence.

Elected officials who endorse Barton give his claims credibility they do not deserve. He in turn gives cover and a veneer of legitimacy to right-wing politicians interested in putting their notions of a nation created by and for Christians into public policy. Both Barton and his backers are undermining understanding of, and respect for, vital American values and constitutional principles like separation of church and state and equal treatment under the law.

And last night, Peter appeared on "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell to discuss Barton and his influence:

Barton: Everything Should Operate According to Biblical Principles

David Barton appeared on the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s celebration of the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the King James Bible to talk about how everything, literally everything, should be run based on “Biblical principles.” Barton, who enthusiastically promotes Seven Mountains Dominionism and believes that “anything the Bible talks about should not be considered secular,” said that government, judiciary, the family, the education system, and the economics system should all be run according to the Bible. Just like the Founding Fathers would have wanted!

Watch:

Religious Right Ramps Up Attacks on Judicial Nominee Goodwin Liu

As we have previously noted, right-wing activists have waged a year-long smear campaign against legal scholar Goodwin Liu, who was nominated by President Obama to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year. Liu’s nomination was not acted on in the last Congress; he had his second confirmation hearing on March 2, 2011, and on April 7, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination.

In the wake of that approval, Religious Right activists are ramping up their rhetoric and demanding that Republican senators block Liu’s confirmation. On Sunday, the Oak Initiative, a dominionist Religious Right group led by self-proclaimed apostle Rick Joyner, sent activists an email alert urging them to contact their Senators and urge opposition to Liu’s confirmation. On Monday, Concerned Women for America posted an interview with Mario Diaz, CWA’s Policy Director for Legal Issues, who repeated the litany of charges right-wing activists have been hurling at Liu since his nomination in February 2010, calling him the nominee of the “extreme radical left.”

It’s worth noting one more time that Richard Painter, a former chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, has publicly endorsed Liu’s confirmation and slammed the smear campaign against him:

However, for anyone who has actually read Liu's writings or watched his testimony, it's clear that the attacks--filled with polemic, caricature, and hyperbole--reveal very little about this exceptionally qualified, measured, and mainstream nominee. ..

He’s not the only conservative legal luminary to endorse Liu. So have Ken Starr and Clint Bolick.

But that hasn’t kept right-wing activists, led the National Review’s Ed Whelan, from waging an all-out rhetorical attack on Liu. Some on the Religious Right are trying to take things further: at the Freedom Federation’s Awakening conference at Liberty University this past weekend, the Family Research Council’s Ken Blackwell said they’d be calling people into the streets of Washington D.C. to stop the nomination.

What Do You Expect From Alaska's Eagle Forum?

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell nominated Don Haase, a former candidate for the state House of Representatives, to serve on the state's Judicial Council, the board which nominates candidates for open judgeship positions.

During his confirmation hearing, it was discovered that Hasse was formerly the president of the Eagle Forum's state affiliate ... and that he thinks people should prosecuted for having sex outside of marriage: 

Gov. Sean Parnell's appointee for the panel that nominates state judges testified Wednesday that he would like to see Alaskans prosecuted for having sex outside of marriage.

The candidate, Don Haase of Valdez, also admitted under questioning by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that his official resume failed to disclose his leadership role in Eagle Forum Alaska, which advocates for social conservative issues. He most recently was president of the organization, but resigned when he learned of his nomination, he said.

Haase, picked by Parnell for one of three public seats on the Alaska Judicial Council, said that he wouldn't let his personal beliefs influence which candidates he'd approve for judgeships.

The Founding Fathers Had a National Motto: E Pluribus Unum

Rep. Randy Forbes is on a mission to pass a resolution affirming that the national motto "In God We Trust" and House Republicans are playing right along, so it is no surprise that Religious Right activists like the Family Research Council's Ken Klukowski are stepping up to make their contribution to this important effort as well:

Odds are good the Founding Fathers would be astounded by the religious controversies of this past week.

First, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-VA, introduced a resolution reaffirming “In God We Trust” as our national motto. He did so in part after President Obama wrongly claimed the national motto is “E Pluribus Unum.”

Forbes’s resolution failed last year when he introduced it under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic majority. Now under Republicans, the resolution is headed to a floor vote after being approved by the House Judiciary Committee.

Even so, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-VA, claimed the words “In God We Trust” are unconstitutional, an assertion that would likely stun James Madison and members of the first Congress who approved the First Amendment.

Can I just point out that "In God We Trust" did not become our national motto until the 1950s, as John Fea explained in "Was America Founded As a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction":

In 1954 Congress approved an act to add the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance ... In 1955 this connection between God and the United States was further strengthened when Congress opted to put the words "In God We Trust" on all United States coins and currency. The following years it changed the national motto from "E Pluribus Unum" to "In God We Trust."

Allow me also to point out that in 1776, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were tasked with designing Great Seal of the United States, which they did - and it carried the phrase "E Pluribus Unum."

In fact, "E Pluribus Unum" was considered the de facto motto of the United States for nearly two hundred years ... until it was changed to "In God We Trust" in 1955.

So I am pretty sure that the Founding Fathers would be stunned to learn that the national motto is "In God We Trust," given that Congress adopted the Great Seal with its motto of "E Pluribus Unum" in  1782.

CWA: Democrats Imposing “Homosexual Quotas” for Judiciary

After accusing President Obama of acting like a “despot” over his support of gay-rights, Mario Diaz of Concerned Women for America now claims that Democratic Senators are introducing “homosexual quotas” for judicial nominations. Currently there are two openly gay federal judges, both are women nominated by President Clinton.

Diaz says that Democrats care more about judges’ “sexual preferences” than their judicial philosophies, but at the same time maintains that Democrats only want judges who have a “radically liberal philosophy.” Since Obama has nominated J. Paul Oetken, who would be the first openly gay male federal judge, Diaz thinks the Democrats’ end-game is to “force men dressed as women down your throat.” Diaz writes:

Liberal Democrats have formed a strong allegiance with the lesbian, "gay," bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. President Obama is doing everything in his power to promote their agenda throughout all areas of government, and the judiciary is no exception.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said recently he "was shocked to learn there were no openly gay male judges on the entire federal bench," so liberals have set out on a crusade to rectify that, effectively implementing homosexual quotas.

I say "homosexual quotas," because that is the extent of their "commitment" for now. Although they talk about the LGBT community, they are not quite prepared to force men dressed as women down your throat ... yet.



Meanwhile, undeterred by his embarrassing episode with Alter, Schumer continued his search for a new "openly homosexual" candidate of his own. In this instance, otherwise qualified candidates need not apply. If you were not "gay," you did not meet his criteria. So he searched until he finally found someone. He recommended, and the president nominated, Paul Oetken (an even more in-your-face homosexual activist) to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Oetken's resumé includes a brief for the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association that helped bring about the Lawrence v. Texas sodomy decision at the Supreme Court. Schumer noted that Oetken is "a strong advocate" for the LGBT community and felt he needed to mention his work for the radically liberal Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union. He has also written in favor of physician-assisted suicide.

Apparently, those are all great qualifications for a judgeship in the minds of Sen. Schumer and President Obama. Oetken's hearing was on March 16. Seeing the way liberal Democrats treat judicial nominations, one can understand why they are pushing for a process that would exclude a nominee's judicial philosophy from consideration. Apparently, the issue of judicial philosophy pales against the far weightier consideration of the nominee's sexual preferences.

Personhood Law Would Ban Treatment of Life-Threatening Pregnancies

As personhood legislation sprouts up in states like Mississippi, Georgia, Florida and Iowa, the radical anti-choice group Personhood USA also hopes to introduce their extreme (and unconstitutional) legislation in North Dakota. Personhood bills criminalize abortion and certain forms of birth control by granting legal rights to zygotes, declaring it a separate ‘person’ from the mother. Many doctors believe that such legislation would ban in vitro fertilization and prohibit doctors from giving medical assistance to women with serious pregnancy complications like ectopic pregnancies. The AP reports on North Dakota doctors speaking out against the radical legislation in their state:

Doctors told the North Dakota Senate's Judiciary Committee that it could affect couples using in vitro fertilization to try to have a baby as well as women who have complications in early pregnancy that will prevent an embryo from developing into a viable baby. Such complications include an ectopic pregnancy, which happens when a fertilized egg begins growing outside the uterus. The doctors who testified said they did not perform abortions.



Although the measure exempts in vitro fertilization from criminal penalties, it includes language saying that "causing injury to a human being" is not justified.

Dr. Stephanie Dahl, a Fargo infertility specialist who works at North Dakota's only in vitro fertilization center, said the bill would make it illegal to do the procedure.

"The process of IVF may result in injury to an embryo," Dahl said. "It is unavoidable."

Dr. Shari Orser, a Bismarck obstetrician and gynecologist, told the committee that most eggs that are fertilized for in vitro fertilization never become viable embryos "and only a small percentage of embryos thought to be viable produce a child."

"To suggest that every embryo is a person is absurd," Orser said.

Orser said the law also would complicate the treatment of ectopic pregnancies. Without treatment, a tubal pregnancy can result in serious internal bleeding and death, she said.

Other conditions can result in a fetus developing without kidneys, lungs or a brain, Orser said.

"These diagnoses are often made in the first half of these pregnancies," Orser said. "Should a woman be forced to continue the pregnancy when she knows that her baby will die, or can she be spared the emotional distress and the risks of carrying a pregnancy to term?"

Right-Wing Activists Malign Goodwin Liu Even As Conservative Legal Minds Support His Confirmation

Legal scholar Goodwin Liu, President Obama’s nominee for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, is receiving a second hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Liu, who is an Associate Dean and Professor of Law at the Berkeley School of Law and a renowned legal scholar, has unsurprisingly found himself to be a top target of right-wing activists.

Ed Whalen of the Nation Review accuses Liu of “trying to fool senators and get himself appointed to the Ninth Circuit, where he would (among countless opportunities for mischief)” overrule California’s Proposition 8. In addition, a coalition of right-wing groups including the Judicial Crisis Network, Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, Liberty Counsel, American Values, the Center for Military Readiness, the Media Research Center, the Traditional Values Coalition, Americans for Limited Government, and Citizens United have signed on to a memo condemning Liu for representing the “extreme liberal agenda of judicial activism.”

But Richard Painter, the Associate Counsel to the President during the Bush Administration, points out that while many ideological right-wing activists oppose Liu, prominent conservative legal minds like John Yoo, Ken Starr, and Clint Bolick endorse his confirmation and corroborate Liu’s qualifications. “The attacks are rife with extravagant and tendentious readings of Liu’s record,” Painter writes, “and they are based on selective quotations of Liu's writings that even then don’t prove the point”:

Liu's opponents have sought to demonize him as a "radical," "extremist," and worse. National Review Online's Ed Whelan has led the charge with a "one-stop repository" of attacks on Liu. However, for anyone who has actually read Liu's writings or watched his testimony, it's clear that the attacks--filled with polemic, caricature, and hyperbole--reveal very little about this exceptionally qualified, measured, and mainstream nominee.



Far from being radical, Liu's view probably comports with the intent of the framers who bequeathed the Constitution to their descendants with the intent that it be a useful document. Few if any of our ancestors would have intended that we run our businesses, farm our land, educate our children, or live our lives exactly the way they did, even if they did intend that the Constitution give us principles of self-government that would last for generations. Liu's perspective may be more realistic than that of some of his opponents; his view is certainly not radical.



In sum, Liu is eminently qualified. He has support from prominent conservatives. He would fill a judicial emergency vacancy, and he would add important diversity to the bench. He is pragmatic and open-minded, not dogmatic or ideological, as his support for school vouchers shows.

Many, though by no means all, of his scholarly views do not align with conservative ideology or with the policy positions of many elected officials in the Republican Party. (This might not have been the case thirty years ago, but many moderates have since left the Republican Party.) Nevertheless, his views are part of the American legal mainstream. The independence, rigor, and fair-mindedness of his writings support a confident prediction that he will be a dutiful and impartial judge.

Montana Legislature Moves to Stop Towns from Covering Sexual Orientation and Gender in Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Montana State House is currently considering legislation that would prevent the city of Missoula from implementing an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The legislation, proposed by Republican State Rep. Kristin Hansen, would prohibit local governments from going farther than state law in enacting protected classes, was passed out of committee after they rejected an effort to expand the state law. Since Montana does not have a statewide protection for sexual orientation or gender identity, Missoula’s more far-reaching anti-discrimination ordinance would be nullified if Hansen’s bill passes. The Missoulian reports:

The Republican majority on the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill Monday that would effectively overturn Missoula's 2010 ordinance banning discrimination against city residents based on their sexual orientation and gender.

House Bill 516 by Rep. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre, now moves to the House floor for debate this week.

It would prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances or policies that seek to protect residents from real or perceived discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender as the cities of Missoula did through an ordinance and Bozeman did through a policy.

The panel voted earlier Monday to table HB514 by Rep. Edie McClafferty, D-Butte, which would have broadened the Montana Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination statewide based on gender identity or expression and sexual orientation. The move to table her bill came after the bill was rejected 14-6.

The debate over the bill was fraught with fear mongering from right-wing activists about threats to women and children if the ordinance was upheld and the “punishment” for gays and lesbians:

Leading the support for Hansen's bill were two Bitterroot Valley conservatives who were outspoken opponents of the Missoula ordinance last year.

Harris Himes, representing the Montana Eagle Forum, called the Missoula ordinance "unconstitutional on its face."

"There are those of us who would not to rent to gay and lesbian people for religious reasons," said Himes, a Hamilton pastor.

Pressed later by Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula, what those religious reasons are, Himes said: "It is God himself who says that homosexuality is an abomination, and he has various punishments for that, too." Hill asked what those punishments are, and Himes quoted Leviticus saying that homosexuals "surely shall be put to death."

Dallas Erickson of Montana Citizens for Decency through Law, said, "This law in Missoula means that a person with a penis can now go into the showers where the people with vaginas have gone."

Erickson said he knows Ravalli County residents who won't take their children into Missoula businesses "because they don't know if they're going to confronted in the restroom with a different gender."

Montana Legislature Moves to Stop Towns from Covering Sexual Orientation and Gender in Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Montana State House is currently considering legislation that would prevent the city of Missoula from implementing an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The legislation, proposed by Republican State Rep. Kristin Hansen, would prohibit local governments from going farther than state law in enacting protected classes, was passed out of committee after they rejected an effort to expand the state law. Since Montana does not have a statewide protection for sexual orientation or gender identity, Missoula’s more far-reaching anti-discrimination ordinance would be nullified if Hansen’s bill passes. The Missoulian reports:

The Republican majority on the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill Monday that would effectively overturn Missoula's 2010 ordinance banning discrimination against city residents based on their sexual orientation and gender.

House Bill 516 by Rep. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre, now moves to the House floor for debate this week.

It would prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances or policies that seek to protect residents from real or perceived discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender as the cities of Missoula did through an ordinance and Bozeman did through a policy.

The panel voted earlier Monday to table HB514 by Rep. Edie McClafferty, D-Butte, which would have broadened the Montana Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination statewide based on gender identity or expression and sexual orientation. The move to table her bill came after the bill was rejected 14-6.

The debate over the bill was fraught with fear mongering from right-wing activists about threats to women and children if the ordinance was upheld and the “punishment” for gays and lesbians:

Leading the support for Hansen's bill were two Bitterroot Valley conservatives who were outspoken opponents of the Missoula ordinance last year.

Harris Himes, representing the Montana Eagle Forum, called the Missoula ordinance "unconstitutional on its face."

"There are those of us who would not to rent to gay and lesbian people for religious reasons," said Himes, a Hamilton pastor.

Pressed later by Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula, what those religious reasons are, Himes said: "It is God himself who says that homosexuality is an abomination, and he has various punishments for that, too." Hill asked what those punishments are, and Himes quoted Leviticus saying that homosexuals "surely shall be put to death."

Dallas Erickson of Montana Citizens for Decency through Law, said, "This law in Missoula means that a person with a penis can now go into the showers where the people with vaginas have gone."

Erickson said he knows Ravalli County residents who won't take their children into Missoula businesses "because they don't know if they're going to confronted in the restroom with a different gender."

South Dakota Abortion Bill Forces Women to Seek Counseling at Anti-Choice Centers

While the South Dakota state legislature announced today that it will shelve a radical bill that would open the door to legalizing the murder of doctors who perform abortions, the state is still weighing other legislation that would significantly curtail reproductive rights. NARAL Pro-Choice America says that South Dakota already has some of the most draconian laws on the books that constrain women’s access to reproductive health services, including biased counseling and 24 hour waiting periods, even though the state’s only clinic which offers abortion coverage has to fly in a doctor once a week to see patients. While voters twice rejected a comprehensive ban on abortion in the 2006 and 2008 referendums, the Republican-controlled legislature continues to create new burdens for women.

A measure passed by the State House Judiciary Committee would require women seeking an abortion to first visit a “pregnancy help center,” also known as a crisis pregnancy center (CPC), where they must inform women of “the risk factors” and “complications associated with abortion,” and “have a private interview to discuss her circumstances that may subject her decision to coercion.”

The legislation, introduced by Republican State Rep. Roger Hunt, says that such centers can be either “secular or faith based” and the bill only approves a center that does not “perform abortions and is not affiliated with any physician or entity that performs abortions, and does not now refer pregnant mothers for abortions, and has not referred any pregnant mother for abortions for the three-year period.”

A 2006 Congressional report found that such pregnancy centers frequently employ misleading and fallacious information to link abortion to breast cancer, infertility and other fertility problems, and severe psychological problems such as an increased chance of suicide. “The vast majority of the federally funded pregnancy resource centers contacted during the investigation provided information about the risks of abortion that was false or misleading,” according to the investigation, “In many cases, this information was grossly inaccurate or distorted.”

The National Abortion Federation also notes that such centers are mostly staffed by volunteers whose “main qualifications are a commitment to Christianity and anti-choice beliefs,” rather than medical professionals, and “many CPCs are connected with religious organizations, but few disclose that fact in their advertising.” And a report by The Daily Beast looked into the propaganda tools and medically-unsound practices commonplace at such pregnancy centers.

But if State Rep. Hurt gets his way, South Dakota may force women looking to terminate their pregnancy to first gain the approval of the staff of such biased centers, on top of an existing 24 hour waiting period. Since a doctor that provides abortion procedures is only available in the entire state just once a week, this bill would gravely endanger the already-limited access women have to reproductive services.

South Dakota Abortion Bill Forces Women to Seek Counseling at Anti-Choice Centers

While the South Dakota state legislature announced today that it will shelve a radical bill that would open the door to legalizing the murder of doctors who perform abortions, the state is still weighing other legislation that would significantly curtail reproductive rights. NARAL Pro-Choice America says that South Dakota already has some of the most draconian laws on the books that constrain women’s access to reproductive health services, including biased counseling and 24 hour waiting periods, even though the state’s only clinic which offers abortion coverage has to fly in a doctor once a week to see patients. While voters twice rejected a comprehensive ban on abortion in the 2006 and 2008 referendums, the Republican-controlled legislature continues to create new burdens for women.

A measure passed by the State House Judiciary Committee would require women seeking an abortion to first visit a “pregnancy help center,” also known as a crisis pregnancy center (CPC), where they must inform women of “the risk factors” and “complications associated with abortion,” and “have a private interview to discuss her circumstances that may subject her decision to coercion.”

The legislation, introduced by Republican State Rep. Roger Hunt, says that such centers can be either “secular or faith based” and the bill only approves a center that does not “perform abortions and is not affiliated with any physician or entity that performs abortions, and does not now refer pregnant mothers for abortions, and has not referred any pregnant mother for abortions for the three-year period.”

A 2006 Congressional report found that such pregnancy centers frequently employ misleading and fallacious information to link abortion to breast cancer, infertility and other fertility problems, and severe psychological problems such as an increased chance of suicide. “The vast majority of the federally funded pregnancy resource centers contacted during the investigation provided information about the risks of abortion that was false or misleading,” according to the investigation, “In many cases, this information was grossly inaccurate or distorted.”

The National Abortion Federation also notes that such centers are mostly staffed by volunteers whose “main qualifications are a commitment to Christianity and anti-choice beliefs,” rather than medical professionals, and “many CPCs are connected with religious organizations, but few disclose that fact in their advertising.” And a report by The Daily Beast looked into the propaganda tools and medically-unsound practices commonplace at such pregnancy centers.

But if State Rep. Hurt gets his way, South Dakota may force women looking to terminate their pregnancy to first gain the approval of the staff of such biased centers, on top of an existing 24 hour waiting period. Since a doctor that provides abortion procedures is only available in the entire state just once a week, this bill would gravely endanger the already-limited access women have to reproductive services.

2012 Candidates Weekly Update 2/15/11

Michele Bachmann

New Hampshire: Announces intention to visit New Hampshire at CPAC (Minnesota Independent, 2/14).

CPAC: Uses faulty tax math at her CPAC speech (WaPo, 2/11).

Health Care: Says that repealing reform law is “the driving motivation of my life” (RWW, 2/10).

Haley Barbour

Immigration: Lobbied for Mexico to support the extension of an “amnesty” program (Salon, 2/14).

Lobbying: Politico looks into conflicts of interest as Governor after lobbying for tobacco industry (Politico, 2/14).

Iowa: Plans to address a Republican fundraiser in Iowa on March 15 (The Note, 2/14).

Mitch Daniels

Tea Party: Rush Limbaugh thinks Daniels is trying “to discredit talk radio and the tea party movement” (Politico, 2/14).

CPAC: Speech on debt receives rave reviews from pundits, but Daniels wins just four percent of straw poll votes (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 2/14).

Education: Pushes dramatic school vouchers bill despite cuts to public education (Evansville Courier & Press, 2/13).

Jon Huntsman

Utah: The former Utah governor trails Romney among state’s Republicans (Desert News, 2/12).

2012: Hires staff for his leadership PAC (Politico, 2/11).

Mike Huckabee

Religious Right: Criticizes GOProud during CPAC controversy (GOP12, 2/11).

Poll: Leading Republican choice on who would make a good president (The Atlantic, 2/11).

Sarah Palin

Poll: Struggles in polls of early primary states (Politico, 2/14).

Budget: Uses phony data to critique Obama’s proposed budget (CBS News, 2/14).

PAC: Hires chief of staff for leadership PAC (CNN, 2/11).

Tim Pawlenty

Religious Right: Plans to attend Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting in Iowa in March (Iowa Independent, 2/14).

Florida: Set to address Florida’s Republican state legislators (Florida Times Union, 2/11).

CPAC: Attacks President Obama as weak in CPAC speech (RWW, 2/11).

Mitt Romney

New Hampshire: Has support of 40% of New Hampshire GOP primary voters in WMUR Granite State poll (WMUR, 2/14).

Nevada: Meets with supporters in the early caucus state (LVRJ, 2/14).

Health Care: Massachusetts reform law continues to haunt Romney among conservatives (The Plum Line, 2/14).

Rick Santorum

Religious Right: Plans to attend Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting in Iowa in March (Iowa Independent, 2/14).

Palin: Runs away from criticizing Palin after she calls him a “Neanderthal” (PoliticalWire, 2/10).

CPAC: Criticizes judiciary and defends social conservatism at CPAC (RWW, 2/10).

2012 Candidates Weekly Update 2/15/11

Michele Bachmann

New Hampshire: Announces intention to visit New Hampshire at CPAC (Minnesota Independent, 2/14).

CPAC: Uses faulty tax math at her CPAC speech (WaPo, 2/11).

Health Care: Says that repealing reform law is “the driving motivation of my life” (RWW, 2/10).

Haley Barbour

Immigration: Lobbied for Mexico to support the extension of an “amnesty” program (Salon, 2/14).

Lobbying: Politico looks into conflicts of interest as Governor after lobbying for tobacco industry (Politico, 2/14).

Iowa: Plans to address a Republican fundraiser in Iowa on March 15 (The Note, 2/14).

Mitch Daniels

Tea Party: Rush Limbaugh thinks Daniels is trying “to discredit talk radio and the tea party movement” (Politico, 2/14).

CPAC: Speech on debt receives rave reviews from pundits, but Daniels wins just four percent of straw poll votes (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 2/14).

Education: Pushes dramatic school vouchers bill despite cuts to public education (Evansville Courier & Press, 2/13).

Jon Huntsman

Utah: The former Utah governor trails Romney among state’s Republicans (Desert News, 2/12).

2012: Hires staff for his leadership PAC (Politico, 2/11).

Mike Huckabee

Religious Right: Criticizes GOProud during CPAC controversy (GOP12, 2/11).

Poll: Leading Republican choice on who would make a good president (The Atlantic, 2/11).

Sarah Palin

Poll: Struggles in polls of early primary states (Politico, 2/14).

Budget: Uses phony data to critique Obama’s proposed budget (CBS News, 2/14).

PAC: Hires chief of staff for leadership PAC (CNN, 2/11).

Tim Pawlenty

Religious Right: Plans to attend Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting in Iowa in March (Iowa Independent, 2/14).

Florida: Set to address Florida’s Republican state legislators (Florida Times Union, 2/11).

CPAC: Attacks President Obama as weak in CPAC speech (RWW, 2/11).

Mitt Romney

New Hampshire: Has support of 40% of New Hampshire GOP primary voters in WMUR Granite State poll (WMUR, 2/14).

Nevada: Meets with supporters in the early caucus state (LVRJ, 2/14).

Health Care: Massachusetts reform law continues to haunt Romney among conservatives (The Plum Line, 2/14).

Rick Santorum

Religious Right: Plans to attend Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting in Iowa in March (Iowa Independent, 2/14).

Palin: Runs away from criticizing Palin after she calls him a “Neanderthal” (PoliticalWire, 2/10).

CPAC: Criticizes judiciary and defends social conservatism at CPAC (RWW, 2/10).

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Judiciary Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 04/24/2012, 12:49pm
Last week, we unveiled a campaign featuring a website, web ad, and report exposing Mitt Romney’s dangerous agenda for America’s courts, as demonstrated by the fact that Robert Bork has been tapped to lead Romney's constitutional and judicial advisory team. As the report noted, Romney's choice of judicial advisors "spells serious trouble for the American people" ...  and it is no surprise that it is also music to the ear of the Religious Right. On today's episode of "WallBuilders Live," David Barton and Rick Green invited Jordan Sekulow, who worked for... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 04/04/2012, 9:26am
Earlier this week, President Obama predicted that the Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of healthcare reform legislation, saying it would be unprecedented that "an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.” And now Republicans and the Right and even sitting judges are throwing tantrums, accusing Obama of attempting to "intimidate" the Supreme Court.  Can we just point out that one of the central platforms [PDF] of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign was that he was literally going to arrest federal judges who... MORE
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 02/29/2012, 1:00pm
Gordon Klingenschmitt is asking activists to pay him big money to stop the Senate from confirming Jesse Furman to the Southern District Court of New York. Klingenschmitt is asking for upwards to $159 to send faxes to Senators to stop Furman and two other nominees from “forcing their anti-Jesus, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual views on the American people.” While Klingenschmitt’s attacks are completely over the top, there’s a more obvious sign that Klingenschmitt’s campaign is completely off base: Furman has already been confirmed. Earlier this month the Senate voted... MORE
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 12/28/2011, 11:20am
Newt Gingrich appeared on Monday’s program of WallBuilders Live with David Barton and Rick Green, where Gingrich once again praised Barton’s right-wing pseudo-history and activism. In fact, Gingrich gave Barton credit for helping him develop his plan to assault the “judicial dictatorship” if elected president. He told Barton and Green that his plan is sending shockwaves through the “the secular left, which has been using the courts to replace the America we grew up in” by legalizing abortion, “driving God out of public life” and making same-sex... MORE
Brian Tashman, Friday 12/16/2011, 12:25pm
Michele Bachmann has made so-called “activist judges” a consistent target of her presidential campaign, dubbing them “black-robed masters” and in last night’s debate she called for Americans to “take the Constitution back” from the courts. Railing against the judiciary is a safe bet for Republicans trying to pander to social conservative voters, but Bachmann’s view of the legal system has come out of her experience as a Religious Right activist and student at Oral Roberts University Law School. At Oral Roberts, Bachmann worked for Professor John... MORE
Josh Glasstetter, Tuesday 12/06/2011, 2:53pm
“Strict constructionism,” whatever that means, was a hot topic at Saturday’s GOP presidential forum on Fox News. Mitt Romney and Rick Perry took pains to show that they would be very strict about their constructionism. Channeling George W. Bush, they heartily endorsed the rulings of Roberts and Alito and spoke out against judges who supposedly “legislate from the bench.”   Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli kicked things off by asking Perry, “What does the term ‘strict constructionist’ mean to you and would that be the standard for... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 12/05/2011, 2:35pm
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) appeared on WallBuilders Live today where he joined right-wing historian David Barton and his cohost Rick Green in attacking the judiciary, which Franks called “the biggest threat that we have.” The judiciary has always been a favorite target of conservatives, and recently Republican presidential candidates Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich have declared an all-out assault on the judicial branch. Franks, who is the Co-Chair of Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign, argued that the courts are trying “inch by inch” to “take away our... MORE