Supreme Court

Grassley Promises Anti-Choice Activists He'll Hold The Line Against Garland

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, joined a conference call of anti-abortion activists hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List last night to assure them that he would continue to hold the line and refuse to hold a Judiciary Committee hearing on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

Also joining the call were Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who delivered an opening prayer.

Grassley told the activists that when someone asked him for an update on the nomination last week, he said that “an update would suggest that something has changed” and that he still intends to block any nominee until the next president takes office.

He said that preventing “another liberal” from joining the Supreme Court was necessary to keep “even the reasonable restrictions on abortion that have been enacted into law through the democratic process” from being “swept away.”

Grassley cited a recent National Right to Life poll which he said found that “about 80 percent of Americans don’t believe that abortions should be available after the first trimester.” (It was more complicated than that.)

“But we know that justices who embrace the view that the Constitution is a living document don’t share that view that you and I share,” he said. “The American people, through their elected representatives, should be making these policy decisions, not unelected judges. These are life-and-death issues that we’re fighting for. They show just how important this fight over who’s going to fill Scalia’s seat is.”

In response to a question from SBA List president Marjorie Dannefelser, Grassley suggested that news reports characterizing Garland as moderate are a misleading ploy by the media (one that, if he was correct, he himself and some of his Republican colleagues would be in on).

When Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were nominated, he said, “always in these headlines at the time they were nominated, that adjective was the word ‘moderate,’ just like Garland. Well, we know how those four have turned out. So don’t believe what you read in the press about people’s basic philosophy, because they got it all wrong and probably intentionally all wrong.”

When Dannenfelser asked Grassley to respond to the argument that the Senate is neglecting its job by refusing to even consider Garland’s nomination, Grassley repeated his claim that it would actually be a waste of taxpayer money to give Garland a hearing.

“Well, we could have a hearing, we aren’t going to have a hearing, but let’s just suppose we could have a hearing,” he said. “And I know 52 people, at least 52 in the Senate, aren’t going to approve it. So you have a hearing and you spend a lot of taxpayers’ money gearing up for it, you spend a lot of time of members, a lot of research that has to be done by staff, and then it ain’t going to go anyplace.”

“It’s like getting dressed up for the prom but you don’t get to go,” Dannenfelser said.

Leader Of Anti-Garland Group Once Demanded Judges Have A 'Biblical View Of Justice'

As we and others have noted, the Judicial Crisis Network, the primary outside group backing the Senate GOP’s blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, is funded almost entirely by a dark-money group connected to a single family of conservative donors.

On Friday, Open Secrets uncovered that the same dark-money network funding JCN is behind another group that is working to oppose Merrick Garland’s nomination: the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT).

Open Secrets reports that FACT, which styles itself as a right-wing alternative to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), receives all of its funding through Donor’s Trust, a donor-advised fund that acts as a “pass-through vessel” for conservative funders, making the source of contributions all but impossible to trace. But Open Secrets found evidence linking FACT to the Corkery family, who are behind a number of conservative groups including JCN. JCN and FACT share a treasurer, Neil Corkery, and FACT has the same front address as a number of Corkery-linked groups.

The executive director of FACT and the sole paid employee listed on its most recent tax filing is Matt Whitaker, a former U.S. Attorney from Iowa who we here at Right Wing Watch remember from his unsuccessful run for his home state’s Republican Senate nomination in 2014 (it ultimately went to now-Sen. Joni Ernst). When asked at a debate what criteria he would use to determine whether to support or attempt to block President Obama’s federal judicial nominees, Whitaker said that he would ask if nominees are “people of faith” and “have a biblical view of justice.”

“As long as they have that worldview, then they’ll be a good judge,” he said. “And if they have a secular worldview, where this is all we have here on earth, then I’m going to be very concerned about how they judge.”

From the Open Secrets report on FACT:

One right-leaning group has weighed in more quietly: The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) has demanded Harvard University release records having to do with Garland’s role in the debate in the early 1970s over whether to allow ROTC recruiters on that campus. In late March, FACT’s executive director, Matthew Whitaker, was quoted saying that “Americans have a right to know about Garland’s views of the military.”

Turns out JCN and FACT have something in common, beyond a penchant for keeping the names of their donors secret: Neil Corkery, who is treasurer of the judicial group and also the treasurer and a member of the board of directors at FACT, a 501(c)(3) organization.

Its funding — $600,000 in 2014, according to the only tax return it has filed to date — comes entirely from a conservative donor-advised fund called DonorsTrust, which means it could come from anywhere. DonorsTrust is a pass-through vessel that manages the charitable contributions of wealthy individuals and foundations to organizations that are “dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,” according to its website, while allowing the donors to remain anonymous. Charles Koch is among the many conservatives who have filtered money through DonorsTrust.

In other words, an organization “dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency” gets 100 percent of its funds from a group that exists mainly as a vehicle for donors to elude transparency.

Meanwhile, Corkery adds FACT to a long list of nondisclosing nonprofits at which he holds, or has held, a key position, often treasurer, and which often have overlapping slates of directors or officers. For instance, at two other groups where Corkery is treasurer, the Judicial Education Project and Catholic Voices, a close family ally by the name of Dan Casey is president and director, respectively. Casey is also the secretary of JCN. At the Sudan Relief Fund, Corkery is president, Casey is treasurer, and Ann Corkery, Neil’s wife, is a director.

Ann Corkery is also president of the Wellspring Committee, from which JCN receives substantial funding, including more than $6.6 million in 2014; Kathleen Corkery, the couple’s daughter, is on Wellspring’s board of directors, and its secretary-treasurer is Casey’s son. Neil Corkery draws salaries from several of the groups where he’s an office; Ann is paid by Wellspring. (Venn diagram in the works.)

Many of the groups list the same Georgetown address as their office, with different suite numbers. In reality, the address is that of a UPS store, and the suite numbers are post boxes. FACT’s listed address, in downtown Washington, D.C., has no markings; it appears to be an address that is cited by more than one organization without actually being physically used by any of them, with a receptionist who answers the phone with the names of various groups depending on which line is called.

Tea Party Group Draws Crowd Of Tens To Protest Supreme Court Confirmation

Today, as thousands of people gathered in front of the Supreme Court to voice their support of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, a somewhat smaller crowd organized by Tea Party Patriots held forth against the DAPA/DACA actions and urged the Senate not to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

We counted about 20 people at the Tea Party Patriots event at 11 am, shortly before the event’s speeches were scheduled to begin: 

The heavily outnumbered protesters carried signs saying “#NoHearingsNoVotes,” “#TheDecisionIsOurs,” “#LetThePeopleDecide” and “Let The People Have A Voice On The Future Of The Court,” the message that anti-Garland groups have settled on to make their quest to block hearings on a Supreme Court nomination sound like a populist rallying cry. The sign on a podium labeled Garland “Obama’s Rubber Stamp.”

There was a high ratio of Republican and conservative movement speakers to grassroots activists, asRep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas,Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.,Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and the Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino addressed the small crowd.

Here’s another view of the Tea Party Patriots event:

 

UPDATE: Politico reports:

News concerences sponsored by the Tea Party and FreedomWorks also featured Reps. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), as well as other speakers who unsuccessfully tried to lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and "America the Beautiful." An effort to lead a singalong of the national anthem backfired when the singer forgot the lyrics midway through, drawing jeers.

 

Who Is Chuck Grassley Listening To?

Despite holding a “friendly” meeting with Merrick Garland this morning, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley remains adamant that he will not hold hearings on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

On the ground in Grassley’s home state of Iowa, a clear rift is being exposed between those who are encouraging Grassley’s continued intransigence and the constituents who are calling for their senator to do his job.

Notably this week, Keith Uhl, a lawyer in Des Moines who helped manage Grassley’s first campaign for the Senate, asked his former boss to proceed with the normal course of events for a Supreme Court appointments and hold hearing and a vote on the president’s nominee.

One the other hand, the anti-gay head of the Family Leader, Bob Vander Plaats, wrote an op-ed in the Des Moines Register thanking Grassley for not acting on Garland’s nomination and for “advising that the people need to speak before any further appointments are constitutionally confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States."

For the moment Grassley has made his choice, making his bed with a radical right-wing demagogue. Vander Plaats previously advocated that Congress defund courts whose judges rule in favor of marriage equality. He warned that God might not bless America because a Wiccan led a prayer at the Iowa state capitol. Vander Plaat also praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for stating, “don’t bring this homosexual propaganda into my country for the Olympics.” Vander Plaats also has compared a gay pride event to the Boston Marathon bombing.

Grassley, who once lamented that Democrats were siding with their base over the wishes of the American people, has made the decision that the support of Bob Vander Plaats and other conservative movement figures is more important than fulfilling his constitutional duties.

The difference could not be illustrated more starkly: a former campaign manager asking his boss to do the job he helped elect him to do, versus a radical conservative who would like to see judges’ salaries subject to whether they issue decisions he agrees with.

Grassley has clearly made the wrong choice.

Grassley Admits Conservative Groups Are Behind His Supreme Court Blockade

In 2005, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, accused Democrats of being beholden to “far left pressure groups” and “out of touch with the vast majority of Americans” when it came to judicial confirmations.

Today, Grassley admits that “conservative groups are very much behind” his obstructionism as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he has refused to so much as hold a hearing on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

2005:

“The reality is that today's Democrat Party seems to be beholden to far left pressure groups who know their radical agenda for America can only be implemented by judicial fiat. I am sad to say that the other party has expressed an unquestionable loyalty to what is probably their base but a base out of touch with the vast majority of Americans.”

2016:

Conservative groups are very much behind what we’re trying to do,” Grassley said following a town hall event at Northwestern College in Orange City. “They figure that if this president appoints somebody, you’re going to have a lot of negative freedom-of-religion decisions, a lot of negative gun decisions, a lot of negative political-speech decisions. So we want to make sure the court doesn’t veer to the left.”

Grassley said on the Senate floor yesterday that he only wants to confirm justices who “vote in a way that advances conservative policy.”

We profiled some of the conservative groups that Grassley admits are behind his Supreme Court blockade in a recent report.

 

If Republicans Get Their Wish On The Supreme Court, What Would Trump Or Cruz Do?

By Miranda Blue, Elliot Mincberg and Brian Tashman

Republicans in the Senate, pushed by outside conservative interest groups, are promising to block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, and arguing that the next president should fill the current vacancy, in the hope that a Republican president will name a conservative ideologue to the bench.

Even if the Senate does confirm Garland, the next president will likely be charged with nominating at least one person to the Supreme Court, and possibly more. Since it looks like either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will win the Republican presidential nomination, looking at both men’s past statements gives us an idea of the kind of justices that Republicans are hoping for.

Trump and Cruz have both signaled that they would appease their base by nominating justices who would shift the court far to the right. Cruz has lamented that some justices nominated by Republican presidents have strayed from the party line on issues like abortion rights and has vowed that he would appoint “rock-ribbed conservatives” who have a “long paper trail” to demonstrate their “conservative” bona fides.

Trump, dogged by worries among movement conservatives that he would betray them when it comes to Supreme Court nominations, has promised to pick any Supreme Court nominees off a list he develops in partnership with the conservative Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.

Both candidates have indicated that they would nominate judges who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark abortion rights and marriage equality decisions. Trump, although he appears not to understand the central legal issue of Roe, has said that the decision “can be changed” through the right judicial nominations since “you know, things are put there and are passed but they can be unpassed with time.” Cruz has warned that unless a true conservative like him picks the next justice, the Supreme Court will soon be “mandating unlimited abortion.” Trump has said that Obergefell was wrongly decided, while Cruz has called the decision “fundamentally illegitimate” and said it can be ignored by the president.

Cruz has made the future of the court a centerpiece of his campaign, while Trump may not actually understand how the Supreme Court works. But both have made clear that as president they would work to shift the court even farther to the right on the issues important to social conservatives and to the corporate Right.

What would a court shaped by a President Trump or a President Cruz look like? Looking at a few of the possible judicial nominees whose names have been dropped by candidates or who have been recommended by the Heritage Foundation, we can get an idea of the kind of ideological conservatives whom Republicans are hoping to put on the bench.

William H. Pryor

One possible Supreme Court nominee whom Trump has specifically praised is William H. Pryor, selected by President George W. Bush to be on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Formerly Alabama’s attorney general, Pryor has a history of extreme right-wing activism, severely criticizing not just women’s right to choose under Roe v. Wade but even the constitutionality of the New Deal.

Pryor has called Roe the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.” He has claimed that with the New Deal and other measures, the U.S. has “strayed too far in the expansion of the federal government,” and asserted that it “should not be in the business of public education nor the control of street crime.” As a judge, he has helped uphold a restrictive Georgia voter ID law and joined just one other judge on the 11th Circuit in claiming that “racially disparate effects” should not be enough to prove a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, even though the Supreme Court has ruled precisely the opposite.

Pryor came first on a wish list of Supreme Court picks that the Heritage Foundation published shortly after Trump promised to consult them before naming justices.

Diane Sykes

Trump has also repeatedly named Diane Sykes, a Seventh Circuit federal appeals court judge appointed by President George W. Bush, as a potential Supreme Court nominee. Sykes, who previously served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and a trial court, has also won high praise from the Heritage Foundation and from right-wing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

In a series of dissents, Sykes has argued in favor of big business and against consumers and discrimination victims, including cases where she tried to limit corporate liability for product defects and overturn a $1 million damages award, to protect a corporation from having to defend against an employee’s claim of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to reverse a $3.5 million bad faith judgment in favor of a Lutheran church against its insurance company.

She showed her anti-reproductive-choice views in providing a lenient sentence to two anti-abortion protesters who had to be forcibly removed from blocking the entrance to a Milwaukee abortion clinic and had previously been arrested 100 times for such offenses; Sykes nevertheless praised them for their “fine character” and expressed “respect” for the “ultimate goals” the blockade “sought to achieve.”

She asserted in dissent that a jury verdict against a criminal defendant should have been upheld even though there was extensive evidence that one of the jurors did not understand English (including a statement from the juror himself), which disqualified him from serving on a jury under Wisconsin law; that a prosecutor should be immune from a claim that he fabricated false evidence that wrongly convicted a man for 17 years; and that a conviction under federal law against someone convicted of domestic violence for possessing firearms should be reversed and that the law itself could well be unconstitutional, in disagreement with all 10 other judges on the court of appeals. She voted in favor of a Wisconsin voter ID law and of a claim by a student group that it should receive state funding and recognition despite its violation of a university rule prohibiting against discrimination based on sexual orientation, an issue on which the Supreme Court reached exactly the opposite conclusion several years later.

Steven Colloton

The third name on Heritage’s list of possible Supreme Court nominees is Judge Steven Colloton, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, after previous service for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and as a U.S. attorney.

Colloton has been at the forefront of a number of troubling Eighth Circuit rulings, including writing decisions that reversed an $8.1 million award to whistleblowers who helped bring a defective pricing and kickback claim against a large corporation and a nearly $19 million class action judgment against Tyson Foods for violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. He also joined a ruling making the Eighth Circuit the only appellate court in the country that found that the Obama administration’s efforts to accommodate religious universities and other religious nonprofit objectors to the provision of contraceptive coverage under the ACA was insufficient, an issue now being considered by the Supreme Court.

Even more troubling, Colloton has dissented from a number of Eighth Circuit rulings that have upheld the rights of employees, consumers and others against big business and government agencies. He dissented from a decision giving African-American shoppers the opportunity to prove discrimination claims against a large department store, and then saw his view prevail by one vote when the full Eighth Circuit reheard the case. In another case, he dissented from a decision finding that a city had violated the Voting Rights Act by improperly diluting the voting strength of Native Americans.

Colloton dissented from rulings that gave individuals a chance to prove claims of use of excessive force and, in one case, that a city’s policy to use police dogs to bite and hold suspects without any warning was unconstitutional. In three separate cases, he dissented from decisions that employees should at least get the chance to prove in court that their employers retaliated against them for filing sex harassment, age discrimination, or other discrimination claims. In two more decisions, he argued in dissent that public employees should not have the opportunity to prove that they were retaliated against for speaking out in violation of their First Amendment rights. Yet he also claimed in a dissent that the First Amendment rights of a candidate for state supreme court justice were violated by a state judicial code of conduct restricting solicitation and other campaign activity in order to promote judicial impartiality and ethical conduct by judges. Even the conservative Roberts Court that decided the Citizens United case has agreed that these concerns justify solicitation restrictions in state supreme court elections.

Mike Lee

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is Cruz’s closest ally in the Senate and Cruz has said that Lee “would look good” on the Supreme Court. Lee also made the Heritage Foundation’s shortlist of potential Supreme Court justices.

Lee is a fervent “tenther,” someone who believes the 10th Amendment to the Constitution radically restricts the authority of the federal government. As Jeffrey Rosen wrote in the New York Times Magazine in 2010, “Lee offered glimpses of a truly radical vision of the U.S. Constitution, one that sees the document as divinely inspired and views much of what the federal government currently does as unconstitutional.” Among the areas that Lee has suggested it is unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:

  • Social Security,
  • Medicare and Medicaid,
  • child labor laws,
  • food safety,
  • disaster relief,
  • food stamps,
  • the Violence Against Women Act,
  • and, of course, the Affordable Care Act.

Lee has criticized the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion rights and marriage equality, calling Roe v. Wade an “unconscionable decision” that “defied the spirit and the letter” of the Constitution and responding to Obergefell by introducing a measure that would protect anti-LGBT discrimination.

Ted Cruz

While we don’t expect Cruz to name himself to the Supreme Court, as recently as December Trump was receptive to the idea of extending an olive branch to his main Republican presidential rival in the form of a Supreme Court nomination.

A Justice Cruz would certainly align with Trump’s stated priorities of reversing the Obergefell marriage equality decision and making sure Roe v. Wade is “unpassed.” Cruz, who served as the solicitor general of Texas before his election to the U.S. Senate, has gone so far as to call for the U.S. government to defy Obergefell and to claim that Congress could ban abortion without overturning Roe. Before running for the Senate, Cruz proposed an unconstitutional plan to nullify the Affordable Care Act; last year, he said that a Supreme Court ruling rejecting a clearly meritless challenge to the ACA was the “lawless” work of “rogue justices.” Cruz is known for having politicized the Texas solicitor general’s office, filing dozens of Supreme Court amicus briefs defending conservative positions on hot-button issues such as gun rights and abortion. On the campaign trail, he frequently boasts of his work as an attorney fighting church-state separation.

If Cruz were to become a Supreme Court justice, however, we wonder if he would stick with his idea of subjecting justices to retention elections.

This post has been updated to clarify the circumstances of a case in which Sykes asserted in a dissent that a jury verdict should have been upheld despite evidence that one juror was disqualified from serving.

The New Grassley Rule: Justices Must 'Vote In A Way That Advances Conservative Policy'

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, after flip-flopping on his long-held view that the Senate should do its job and confirm the president’s judicial nominees, went to the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon and delivered a rant on the state of the Supreme Court in which he staked out an even more extreme pro-obstruction position, declaring that he only wants to allow conservative policymakers on the court.

Grassley, who as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has refused to so much as hold a hearing on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, told his colleagues that of the justices currently on the court, only Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas live up to his standards.

His chief complaint against the current court was that conservative justices sometimes side with their liberal colleagues. He announced on the Senate floor that “there are justices who frequently vote in a conservative way. But some of the justices appointed even by Republicans often don’t vote in a way that advances conservative policy.”

This was very different than the standard set by Grassley during George W. Bush’s presidency, when he told his colleagues:

… I probably had the same concerns about President Clinton and Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg when I voted for them. Regarding the political positions that Justice Ginsburg stood for in her life before coming to be a judge, I wouldn't agree with many of them. But she was totally qualified to be on the Supreme Court, and I voted for her based upon the proposition that Alexander Hamilton said that the purpose of our activities here of confirming people for the courts is basically two. Maybe there is some historian around who will say Grassley has it all wrong, but I think it was, No. 1, to make sure that people who were not qualified did not get on the courts. In other words, only qualified people get appointed to the courts and that political hacks do not get appointed to the courts.

That is somebody who was around when the Constitution was written, and the Federalist Papers, stating those things about our role. So I have a fairly flexible point of view of how I ought to look at people, even those with whom I disagree.

Grassley's pronouncement that it is the job of conservative justices to "vote in a way that advances conservative policy” contradicts the reasons he gave for voting against Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation. He said then:

Our American legal tradition demands that judges not take on the role of policy makers, but that they check their biases, personal preferences and politics at the door of the courthouse. The preservation of our individual freedoms depends on limiting policy-making to legislatures, rather than unelected judges who have life-time appointments.

We now have an addendum to the Grassley Rule: Democratic appointees must “check their biases,” while Republican ones must “vote in a way that advances conservative policy.”

Courting Extremism: Donald Trump's Supreme Court And Chuck Grassley's Revisionist History

Courting Extremism is a weekly feature on conservative responses to the Supreme Court vacancy.

Donald Trump, currently the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary, believes that Barack Obama is an illegitimate president who isn’t a natural born citizen. So it’s only natural that Senate Republicans, having apparently decided that Obama’s second term in office only lasted for three years, seem intent on letting a future President Trump pick the next Supreme Court justice.

Not only would delaying a Supreme Court confirmation until the next president takes office leave the court short one justice for about a year, it could let Trump set the direction of the court for decades to come.

Conservative activists have pressured Republican leaders into taking an extreme stance that is opposed by a majority of voters, a stance so ridiculous that it even requires some Republicans to ignore their past statements on the judiciary.

Here are the five worst pro-obstruction arguments, blatant changes of heart and accidental admissions of truth that conservatives have made about the Supreme Court this week:

5) ‘Let’s Do Our Jobs’

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has been feeling the heat over his support for the GOP’s Supreme Court blockade. In fact, his staff even went so far as to keep details of his public meetings with constituents a secret in order to avoid protests over the matter.

Perhaps Grassley would rather not talk to his constituents about why he thinks the Senate shouldn’t even hold a hearing on Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination because back in 2005 he was making exactly the opposite argument, telling his colleagues in a Senate floor speech about judicial nominees: “Let’s do our jobs.”

4) The Judicial C̶o̶n̶f̶i̶r̶m̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ Crisis Network

It’s hard not to roll your eyes when the Judicial Crisis Network demands that Senate Republicans ratchet up their unprecedented obstruction of Garland and other judicial nominees when one remembers that prior to President Obama’s swearing-in, the group was called the Judicial Confirmation Network. Indeed, JCN was created for the sole purpose of encouraging the Senate to confirm President Bush’s nominees, especially his most extreme and controversial ones.

Now JCN is targeting Garland, a man JCN’s own leader implied in 2010 would make a suitable replacement for Justice John Paul Stevens.

“But of those the president could nominate, we could do a lot worse than Merrick Garland,” JCN chief counsel and policy director Carrie Severino said at the time. “He’s the best scenario we could hope for to bring the tension and the politics in the city down a notch for the summer.”

Not only is Severino trying to reverse herself on Garland, but she is even trying to alter the history of her own group.

In a March interview, Pennsylvania radio host Bobby Gunther Walsh spoke with Severino about the JCN and hailed her organization for its work confirming judicial nominees during the Bush administration.

When Walsh incorrectly claimed that the group was called the Judicial Crisis Network at the time — suggesting that it was formed to fight Senate Democrats who were supposedly bent on creating a “crisis” in the courts — Severino chose to let Walsh’s false claim stand and went on to attack Democrats for trying to “repeat false facts over and over again.”

3) NRA’s Lawyer Problem

The NRA has been one of the most vocal opponents of Garland’s nomination, and has even pushed outright falsehoods in hopes of blocking his nomination. The group has insisted that Garland ruled against gun activists in the landmark Heller case and supported a national gun registry. Both claims are completely false, but that hasn’t stopped conservatives like Bill O’Reilly and Larry Pratt from running with the bogus talking points.

But at least one NRA leader didn’t get the memo.

Timothy Johnson of Media Matters points out that one of the organization’s top lawyers lavished praise on Garland, although he toed the Senate GOP’s line that no nominee for the high court should be considered until after a new president takes office.

The NRA's dishonest and fiery rhetoric on Garland is at odds with the views of one of the organization's top constitutional litigators, conservative lawyer Charles J. Cooper.

Cooper, "a longtime stalwart of the Federalist Society" who often represents the NRA and other conservative interests in his private appellate litigation practice, praised Garland in a March 28 interview, saying his respect for Garland has only grown since he supported Garland's nomination to the D.C. Circuit in 1997.

In a 1997 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Cooper noted that his legal philosophy differed from Garland's, but also wrote, "Not only is Merrick enormously gifted intellectually, but he is thoughtful as well, for he respects other points of view and fairly and honestly assesses the merits of all sides of an issue," and that should he be confirmed, "He would comport himself on the bench with dignity and fairness."

Asked about the letter by The Washington Post, Cooper said his "high opinion of Judge Garland has not changed -- indeed, it has only strengthened -- over the course of the 19 years since I wrote these words." (Cooper, however, does support Senate Republicans in obstructing Garland's nomination for political reasons.)

Among the cases Cooper was involved in? The Heller case, the very one that the NRA is citing in its false attacks against Garland.

2) Looming Dictatorship

Rafael Cruz, the father of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and one of his top campaign surrogates, raised the issue of gun rights in an interview on Monday, warning that with “one more liberal justice” will lead Americans to “lose our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”

Not only would Americans be stripped of their gun rights if a “liberal justice” were to be appointed to the court, Cruz warned, but America could transform into an authoritarian state: “[T]hink back in history: Every dictator that has taken the guns away from the population has used them against the population.”

1) The Trump Court

While Donald Trump may have struggled with knowing exactly what the Supreme Court does or what the right to privacy has to do with abortion rights, he has been clear that he has wanted to outlaw abortion ever since a friend who had contemplated terminating a pregnancy ended up raising a “super star” kid.

On Wednesday, Trump went on to take three different positions on abortion rights in three hours, and it remains unclear exactly what he believes.

But what Trump has made clear is that he plans to appoint to the Supreme Court only ultraconservative jurists in the mold of Antonin Scalia, ones who would likely support overturning Roe v. Wade and uphold state efforts to curtail abortion rights. He even said he would pick a justice from list of potential nominees issued by the Heritage Foundation, an anti-choice group led by Jim DeMint, who was “one of the most die-hard anti-choice lawmakers” during his time in the Senate. (The organization has since released a list of their conservative dream justices).

While Trump has reversed his position on whether women who have abortions should be punished, a Supreme Court shaped by Trump could make such a prospect a reality.

Heritage List Gives Glimpse Of Far-Right Justices Sought By Trump And Cruz

One of the conservative establishment’s greatest fears about a Donald Trump presidency has been that he wouldn’t pick movement ideologues to sit on the Supreme Court. Trump attempted to put that concern to rest last week when he announced that he was working with the conservative behemoth the Heritage Foundation to shape a list of 10 possible Supreme Court picks from whom he would choose nominees if he were to become president. (Whether he would actually keep that promise, however, is an open question.)

Meanwhile, Trump’s main GOP presidential rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, has promised to make nominating ultra-conservative justices a “priority” of his presidency. He has even made a point of criticizing past Republican presidents for appointing insufficiently conservative jurists.

Trump hasn’t released his list of candidates, but today the Heritage Foundation published a “non-exclusive” list of eight people that it said “illustrates the kind of highly qualified, principled individuals the new president should consider” for the high court — and who, it’s safe to assume, represent the kind of judges the conservative movement would pressure Trump and Cruz to pick for the federal courts.

Two of Heritage’s picks, federal appeals court judges William Pryor and Diane Sykes, have been mentioned repeatedly by Trump on the campaign trail. The name of another, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, has been brought up by Cruz, who even picked up the Utah senator’s endorsement.

In a profile of Sykes last month, ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser wrote:

… Sykes, who currently sits on the Seventh Circuit, backed a voter ID law . She also wrote a decision expanding religious objectors’ ability to limit their employees’ access to birth control coverage that SCOTUSBlog’s Lyle Denniston described as “ the broadest ruling so far by a federal appeals court barring enforcement of the birth-control mandate in the new federal health care law.”

Millhiser noted that Sykes also ruled “that anti-gay groups have a constitutional right to continue receiving government subsidies even if they engage in discrimination,” another troubling indication that she could support conservative groups’ attempts to justify discrimination.

Pryor, a former Alabama attorney general, also has a history of right-wing activism. Pryor has called Roe v. Wade the “ worst abomination in the history of constitutional law” and said that it created “ a constitutional right to murder an unborn child.” He has claimed that with “the New Deal” and other measures, the U.S. has “strayed too far in the expansion of the federal government,” and asserted that the federal government “should not be in the business of public education nor the control of street crime .” Like Sykes, Pryor has upheld a voter ID law.

Lee, a Tea Party favorite who has been Cruz’s strongest ally in the Senate, has a legal philosophy that might be even more troubling, dismissing large swaths of the federal government’s work as unconstitutional. As Peter summarized recently:

Here are a few things that Sen. Mike Lee believes are unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:

Peter noted that Lee “dismisses Supreme Court rulings upholding a woman’s right to abortion” and has “called the court’s marriage equality ruling a ‘breathtaking presumption of power.’”

Also on Heritage’s list is Brett Kavanaugh, a George W. Bush appointee to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where he is a colleague of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Kavanaugh, who before his career as a judge worked on the notorious “Starr Report” about President Clinton, is just one example of Bush’s effort to put ideologically motivated conservatives on the federal bench.

Kavanaugh’s rulings on the D.C. Circuit include striking down important EPA air pollution rules in an opinion that one columnist called “60 pages of legal sophistry, procedural hair-splitting and scientific conjecture.” PFAW summarized the issue at hand:

Last summer, two Bush-nominated judges on the D.C. Circuit issued a much-criticized ruling in EME Homer City Generation, striking down important new EPA rules on air pollution that crosses state lines. In 2011, the EPA issued new regulations to limit the levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emitted by coal-fired power plants and crossing state lines. Based on the administrative record and its expertise on environmental health, the agency concluded that the new rules would prevent 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 heart attacks, and 400,000 cases of asthma. As if that weren’t important enough, the rules would also save $280 billion a year in healthcare costs.

In 2011, Kavanaugh dissented from a ruling that found ExxonMobil was not immune from being sued by Indonesians who said they had been “beaten, burned, shocked with cattle prods, kicked, and subjected to other forms of brutality and cruelty" by the company’s security forces. Dissenting from a ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act the same year, Kavanaugh suggested that a president who thinks the ACA is unconstitutional could simply decline to enforce it.

Also on Heritage’s list are Paul Clement, who served as solicitor general in the Bush administration and is just 49 years old, and federal appeals court judges Steven Colloton and Raymond Gruender. Another Heritage suggestion is Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, who was nominated by then-Gov. Rick Perry after helping Bush run his faith-based initiatives in Texas and in the White House.

Chuck Grassley On Judicial Confirmations: 'Let's Do Our Jobs.' (But That Was 2005)

While discussing the confirmation of judges, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, had a message for his fellow senators: “Let’s do our jobs.” But that was 2005.

Eleven years ago, with a Republican in the White House, Grassley was emphatic that the Senate act quickly on the president’s judicial nominations, telling colleagues that slowing down the confirmation process was “like being a bully on the schoolyard playground.”

According to Grassley in 2005, for the Senate to do its job, George W. Bush’s nominees would have to receive up-or-down votes. Today, apparently, doing his job as chairman of the Judiciary Committee does not even include holding hearings on President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.

One wonders what 2005 Chuck Grassley would say to his 2016 self. In April of that year, during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Grassley told host Chris Matthews that “every nominee should have an opportunity to have an up-or-down vote.”

That same month in a statement on his website titled “Talking Judges to Death,” the Iowa senator wrote, “It’s time to make sure all judges receive a fair vote on the Senate floor.”

Grassley continued to make his case during a May speech on the Senate floor, telling his colleagues, “It’s high time to make sure all judges receive a fair up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.”

In the same speech, he complained that he and his colleagues were being “denied an opportunity to carry out their constitutional responsibility,” telling the Senate, “That is simply not right. The Constitution demands an up-or-down vote. Fairness demands an up-or-down vote.”

Grassley charged that Democrats wanted “to grind the judicial process to a halt for appellate court nominees so they can fill the bench with individuals who have been rubberstamped by leftwing extreme groups.”

In 2005 Democrats opposed a small number of nominees based on their extreme ideologies. In contrast, Grassley and today’s Republicans have made it clear that they will oppose anyone nominated by Obama, no matter their qualifications or ideology, essentially seeking to undo the 2012 presidential election.

Today the only rationale for Grassley’s own intransigence is fear of the far right and their demand that Republicans obstruct the president’s Supreme Court appointment.

Grassley’s advocacy for the Senate doing its job did not stop in the spring of 2005. In September of that year, after President Bush appointed John Roberts to the Supreme Court, Grassley cited Alexander Hamilton in claiming that “the purpose of our activities here of confirming people for the courts” was “to make sure that people who were not qualified did not get on the courts. In other words, only qualified people get appointed to the courts and that political hacks do not get appointed to the courts.”

He noted that “maybe there is some historian around who will say Grassley has it all wrong.”

In that same speech he stated that the president “had a mandate to appoint whom he wanted appointed, as long as they were not political hacks and as long as they were qualified” and that the president had “primacy in the appointments to the Supreme Court.”

In January 2006, with the appointment of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, Grassley put out a press release that once again cited Alexander Hamilton:

The Constitution provides that the President nominates a Supreme Court Justice, and the Senate provides its advice and consent, with an up or down vote.  In Federalist 66, Alexander Hamilton wrote, “it will be the office of the President to nominate, and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint.  There will, of course, be no exertion of choice on the part of the Senate.  They may defeat one choice of the Executive, and oblige him to make another; but they cannot themselves choose – they can only ratify or reject the choice he may have made.”

Citations of Hamilton, calls for the Senate to do its job, discussions of “constitutional responsibility” are now a faded memory.

If Chuck Grassley did recall his words from that year, perhaps he would remember his statement that “in my town meetings across Iowa, I hear from people all the time, why aren’t the judges being confirmed?” He went on to claim, “I hear from Iowans all the time that they want to see these nominees treated in a fair manner, and they want to see an up-or-down vote.”

Home for the Senate’s Easter recess, he is now facing these questions from constituents like Randy Waagmeester, who told his senator at a town hall, “It’s not fair for this man not to get a hearing.”

Another of Grassley’s constituents, Glenda Schrick, told her senator, “There’s nothing in the U.S. Constitution that says we can’t have a hearing and then vote yea or nay, so that we don’t constantly have it thrown at us as Republicans that all we say is ‘no.’”

However, these interactions will be few for the Iowa senator. According to the Des Moines Register “only three of his 19 planned events are publicly announced town hall meetings — and they’re happening in the three most heavily Republican counties in the state in terms of voter registration.”

Instead of running from these challenges, Grassley should simply follow his own admonition from more than a decade ago, come back to Washington, tell his Republican colleagues “let’s do our jobs” and get to work confirming Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

Gohmert: Supreme Court Tried To Play God In Gay Marriage Ruling

Last week, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, sat in for Tony Perkins on the “Washington Watch” radio program, where he chatted with conservative attorney Ken Klukowski about the supposed attacks on religious freedom in the U.S.

After warning that liberals are trying to stop Christians from practicing their faith openly in America, he repeated his claim that the Supreme Court justices declared themselves God when they handed down last year’s marriage equality ruling:

Last summer, the Supreme Court in the same-sex marriage case did what they have been building towards since the 1960s, for over 50 years. You take away God from the schools, prayer from the schools, the Bible from the schools; God, the Bible, things where we talk about God or Jesus in an open forum that’s in the public sector. And last summer five justices basically said, ‘Forget what God said according to the Bible, forget what Moses said, God said, forget what Jesus said when he quoted Moses verbatim and said ‘this is what marriage is.’ Basically, to my mind, they were ruling, ‘The five of us, we five Supremes, are now your God.’”

The congressman went on to suggest that the government now believes that it can compel churches to “fund abortion” and seeks to “force churches to do whatever they tell them.”

The Judicial Crisis Network Conveniently Forgets Its Own History

It has been truly remarkable watching the Judicial Crisis Network criss-crossing the country pressuring Republican senators to keep up their blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination, since during the George W. Bush administration the group was named the Judicial Confirmation Network and promoted the idea that every judicial nominee “deserves an up-or-down vote.”

JCN’s current leaders have been carefully ignoring this history in their effort to prevent the Senate Judiciary Committee from even holding a hearing on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, a situation that reached new heights of absurdity last week when the group’s general counsel, Carrie Severino, let a conservative radio host speculate at length, incorrectly, about why the group might have been named the “Judicial Crisis Network” during the Bush administration.

“Here’s what’s interesting, is you were interestingly named the Judicial Crisis Network” during the Bush administration, radio host Bobby Gunther Walsh mistakenly said during a March 24 interview with Severino.

“It’s interesting you chose that name,” he said, “I don’t know if there was a crisis going on back then, is that when they were threatening Bush about ‘you can’t nominate someone’?”

After repeating misleading claims about Sen. Charles Schumer and then-Sen. Joe Biden’s comments about Supreme Court nominations during the Bush years, Walsh fumed, “You know what I can’t stand is when people can’t even admit that they said stuff and they can’t even admit the truth.”

Severino, rather than correcting Walsh about her organization’s past as the Judicial Confirmation Network, instead complained about people who “repeat the same false facts” until “people take them as true”: “Yeah, you’re entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts. If you repeat the same false facts over and over again, sometimes people take them as true, so it’s frustrating.”

“It’s the irony that you can just see the Democrats are willing to say and do whatever it takes to get this fifth vote that they just desperately want a solid liberal block on the court,” she added. “And they’re going to want to deny the people a voice in the process in order to do that. That’s a real shame.”

As we all know, the Judicial Crisis Network would never “repeat false facts”!

Rafael Cruz: 'One More Liberal Justice' Could Allow A Dictator To Turn Guns On Americans

Rafael Cruz, the father and top campaign surrogate of Sen. Ted Cruz, warned in a radio interview today that if “one more liberal justice” is confirmed to the Supreme Court, “we will lose our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,” which could lead to a dictator turning guns against the American people.

“One more liberal justice with that way of thinking and we will lose our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,” Cruz said on Breitbart’s SiriusXM program. “And think back in history: Every dictator that has taken the guns away from the population has used them against the population.”

“It is imperative that we elect as president someone that you can be certain that will only nominate to the Supreme Court justices that are committed to following the Constitution and the rule of law, not to legislate from the bench,” he said. “Otherwise, if we lose the court, it may take a whole generation to recover it and I don’t think we have the time.”

Cruz issued a similar warning in November, before the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, saying that “praise God there are 300 million guns in American in the hands of private citizens.”

Cruz also repeated his claim that the American public education system is being used by communists to indoctrinate children into “an anti-Christian worldview.”

“What has happened in America is that we have believed this lie of separation of church and state, which is not in the Constitution, is not in the Declaration,” Cruz said. “The total opposite is true. One of the very first Bibles printed in America was printed under the auspices of Congress to be the principal textbook in high schools, primary schools and universities.”

Cruz frequently uses the story about Congress printing Bibles to be used as textbooks in his attempts to refute the idea of church-state separation. The story, unsurprisingly, is a myth promoted by Cruz’s friend, the political operative David Barton, who is running a super PAC backing Ted Cruz’s candidacy.

He went on to say that this all changed when the Humanist Manifesto, an “ominous document,” was signed in 1933, leading to “immorality and chaos and secular humanism.” He then repeated his claim that John Dewey, the public education reformer and signer of the Humanist Manifesto “was a member of the American Communist Party.” (Dewey was in fact an “avowed anti-Communist.”)

All of this, he said, has led to the Common Core educational standards “brainwashing” public school students with an “anti-Christian worldview in an attempt to secularize America.”

“So, since 1933, those concepts of secular humanism have been immersed in our public school system,” he said, “and now, with Common Core, they have been elevated to a new level. And Common Core is not really about standards, it’s about brainwashing our kids with secular humanism, with an anti-Christian worldview, with what’s called situational ethics … And so what has happened is that kids are being brainwashed with this worldview that is an anti-Christian worldview in an attempt to secularize America.”

Ron Johnson Is Taking His SCOTUS Talking Points Straight From Right-Wing Groups

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is one of the Republican senators who is under considerable pressure in his home state to break from his party leadership and consider the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

So far, Johnson has toed the party line and says that he supports blocking any nominee to the Supreme Court for the remainder of Obama’s presidency. In defending this position, he has turned to a number of stock talking points cooked up by right-wing groups seeking to keep an Obama nominee off the Supreme Court.

As soon as President Obama announced his nomination of Garland, Johnson turned to the talking point that the conservative Judicial Crisis Network has been promoting since soon after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death left a vacant seat on the Supreme Court.

Johnson’s appeal to let the American people “decide” and give them a “voice” by discounting President Obama’s entire last year in office, comes straight out of the messaging that JCN started hammering in early ads urging obstruction. In JCN’s first ad, a narrator says:

It’s ‘We the People.’ Sometimes the politicians forget that. The Supreme Court has a vacancy and your vote in November is your only voice. Sen. Chuck Grassley agrees: the American people should decide. This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about your voice. You choose the next president, the next president chooses the next justice. Call Sen. Chuck Grassley. Thank him for letting the people decide.

Of course, the people already did have a voice in choosing who would pick the next Supreme Court justice when they reelected President Obama for a second four-year term in 2012.

The New York Times reported yesterday on an event in Wisconsin at which Johnson attempted to justify the Senate GOP’s obstructionism by implying that the Constitution’s requirement of “advice and consent” can mean the Senate advising the president not to make any judicial nomination at all:

“Yeah, I am hearing the drumbeat, ‘Do your job! Do your job!’ ” Mr. Johnson said, invoking the Democrats’ battle cry in their quest to get Judge Garland a hearing. “We’re doing our job,” Mr. Johnson declared, to shouts of “yes.”

“Our job as a coequal branch in the nomination process is advise and consent,” he said. “Well, President Obama — surprise — didn’t heed our advice. So now we are doing the second part of that advice and consent: We’re withholding our consent. Completely appropriate.”

This is a talking point that Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, a longtime right-wing player in judicial fights, pioneered very soon after the death of Justice Scalia, when he told televangelist Pat Robertson, “The Senate has a role in this, the Constitution says ‘advice and consent.’ The advice here is, ‘Don’t put up a nominee when you’re only going to be the president, you’re a lame duck and you’re only going to be the president for 11 months.’”

We don’t think that refusing to even consider a Supreme Court nominee is what the founders had in mind when they gave the Senate the power of “advice and consent," which is why the GOP leadership’s decision to have the Senate do absolutely nothing in response to a Supreme Court nomination is unprecedented.

According to the Times article, Johnson has also taken to saying that Garland is “hostile” to the Second Amendment:

“Judge Merrick is hostile to your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,” Mr. Johnson said in Pewaukee, using the judge’s first name. “So I am doing my job to protect the Second Amendment rights of Wisconsinites.”

Johnson’s use of the word “hostile” is no accident. The phrase “hostile to the Second Amendment” is what right-wing groups have settled on to describe Garland’s utterly benign record on gun rights. That’s the exact phrase that the National Rifle Association has been using in its effort to stir up opposition to Garland’s nomination. The “hostile” term seems to have come from an opposition research package put together by the Judicial Crisis Network, which in turn seems to have borrowed the phrase from a 2007 article in the NRA’s magazine.

We outlined last week why the Second Amendment “hostility” argument is bunk.

Senate Republicans seem to have ceded not only their governing, but the very words that come out of their mouths, to right-wing obstructionist groups.

Courting Extremism: Gun Activist Warns Garland While Other Conservatives Reach For New Bogus Attacks

Courting Extremism is a weekly feature on conservative responses to the Supreme Court vacancy.

Unable to come up with any honest attacks against Judge Merrick Garland’s record, conservatives continue to try to find new ways to justify the Republican leadership’s refusal to even hold hearings on Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. At least one activist, Gun Owners of America’s Larry Pratt, even suggested that the Second Amendment was designed in part to stop people like Garland.

Here are the five most ridiculous conservative pro-obstruction arguments of the week:

5) The NRA Rule

Mitch McConnell continues to move the goalposts on his party’s Supreme Court blockade. First, the Republican leader flatly declared that the Senate would not consider any nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court until a new president is in office.

Then, in an interview on Sunday with Fox News, McConnell added a new caveat, declaring that as long as Republicans hold a majority, the Senate would not confirm Garland because he is facing opposition from conservative groups like the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Rifle Association.

McConnell’s comments are particularly revealing, as he and other Republicans have insisted that their Supreme Court blockade isn’t about politics but is about a (nonexistent) Senate tradition to refuse to hold confirmation votes for Supreme Court nominees during election years.

If McConnell was taking this stance truly out of principle rather than partisanship, there would be no need to cite pressure from the NFIB and NRA. His statement also seems to imply that Republicans may obstruct any nominee if a Democrat succeeds Obama, seeing that the two right-wing groups are unlikely to support anyone nominated by a Democratic president.

4) Perpetual Obstructionism

Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly appears to be on the side of those who think that only a Republican president should be allowed to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

She told Armed America Radio this week that Senate Republicans need to clearly state that “we don’t want any new nominee on the court until we have a Republican who will appoint somebody of the nature of Scalia.”

“The Court can continue to function indefinitely with fewer than nine Justices, as it has many times in our history,” Schlafly wrote in an op-ed. She then suggested that if a Republican becomes president, a Republican Senate could use the opportunity to pack the court with more than nine justices:

If Republicans elect the next president and retain control of Congress, there will be plenty of time to add new Justices to the Supreme Court. One scholar proposed expanding the size of the Court to 11 or more Justices, since a larger Court reduces the likelihood that any single appointee would fundamentally change the Court’s direction.

In addition to controlling the size of the Supreme Court, Congress could also authorize the President to nominate new Justices on a regular timetable — say, one during each two-year term of Congress. Under that system, a new Justice would join the Supreme Court every two years, regardless of whether an existing Justice dies or retires during that period.

3) If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Anti-choice activists are desperately trying to find reasons to oppose Garland’s nomination.

First, abortion rights opponents expressed outrage that Garland attended a book party celebrating the release of journalist Linda Greenhouse’s biography of Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Now the outlet has LifeSiteNews run an article alleging that Garland “ruled against Priests for Life in a case involving the HHS mandate.”

Garland, however, wasn’t one of the three judges on the D.C. Circuit to hear Priests for Life’s challenge to the contraception mandate. LifeSiteNews was angry that Garland voted against rehearing the case — the three judge panel ruled unanimously against Priests for Life — before the full court of appeals, or an en banc review.

As Paul wrote, such a vote does not constitute a ruling against the group, despite LifeSiteNews’ claim:

A vote for or against en banc review, absent an accompanying opinion, does not necessarily tell you anything about why the judge voted that way. In fact, several of the judges wrote or joined lengthy opinions explaining why they were for or against an en banc review. Chief Judge Garland joined none of them. Neither did George W. Bush nominee Thomas Griffith or Clinton nominee David Tatel, both of whom voted along with Chief Judge Garland not to rehear the case. The majority of the court voted against en banc review, so we don’t know how Garland would have voted on the merits of the case.

The challenge to the contraception mandate was inevitably headed to the Supreme Court as several other circuit courts heard similar challenges. Indeed, the high court heard arguments on the Zubik case earlier this week.

2) He’s An Extremist!

After President Obama took office, the Judicial Confirmation Network changed its name to the Judicial Crisis Network and changed its mission from encouraging the speedy confirmation of judicial nominees to advocating for obstructionism and no-votes.

Unsurprisingly, the group, like some of its allies in the conservative movement, is also changing its tune on Garland.

Just six years ago, JCN spokesperson Carrie Severino hinted that her group wouldn’t put up much of a fight if Obama nominated Garland to the Supreme Court. “[O]f those the president could nominate, we could do a lot worse than Merrick Garland,” Severino told the Washington Post at the time. “He’s the best scenario we could hope for to bring the tension and the politics in the city down a notch for the summer.”

Fast forward six years, and all of a sudden JCN is attacking Garland as a left-wing extremist in this new web ad:

1) ‘The Second Amendment Is All About People Like Judge Garland’

Conservative groups have repeatedly claimed that Garland opposed a challenge to a Washington, D.C., handgun ban and supported a national gun registry.

“He voted against Dick Heller,” Gun Owners of America head Larry Pratt said on “Trunews” this week. “He voted against the idea that any citizen of the District of Columbia has an individual right to keep and bear arms.” “He also voted to uphold Bill Clinton’s registration scheme,” he added, claiming that the judge’s track record demonstrates “opposition to the Second Amendment.”

However, Garland did not rule on the merits of the Heller case and he never came anywhere close to approving a national gun registry, as Pratt alleged.

“This is the guy that has been told to us by many folks, including the president, that ‘this is a moderate,’” Pratt said. “Well, I guess in the Kremlin there are moderates but that’s not the kind of moderate we need on the Supreme Court.”

Then, Pratt issued a veiled warning to Garland similar to those he has given Democratic officials whom he considers anti-Second Amendment. When the program’s host, Rick Wiles, asked if Garland would shift “the balance of power” on the court against the Second Amendment, Pratt responded: “Judicially, it’s in a heap of trouble. Happily, the Second Amendment is all about people like Judge Garland so there is a limit to how far he can go, I think.”

Pratt: 'The Second Amendment Is All About People Like Judge Garland'

Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, implied this week that Judge Merrick Garland could be assassinated if he continues to rule in “opposition to the Second Amendment,” saying that “the Second Amendment is all about people like Judge Garland, so there is a limit to how far he can go.”

The gun activist made the comments on “Trunews,” an End-Times-themed radio program hosted by Rick Wiles, a notorious right-wing conspiracy theorist. Pratt has delivered similar warnings to other officials who he believes are hostile to the Second Amendment.

Pratt, an activist with ties to the militia movement whose extremist gun group has been heralded by Ted Cruz, repeated two debunked claims about Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat, falsely claiming that Garland voted in support of a Washington, D.C., handgun ban and a national gun registry.

“He voted against Dick Heller,” Pratt said. “He voted against the idea that any citizen of the District of Columbia has an individual right to keep and bear arms. This is the guy that has been told to us by many folks, including the president, that ‘this is a moderate.’ Well, I guess in the Kremlin there are moderates but that’s not the kind of moderate we need on the Supreme Court.”

He added: “He also voted to uphold Bill Clinton’s registration scheme in an earlier decision, so his track record is consistent and it’s one of opposition to the Second Amendment.”

This prompted Wiles to ask what would happen to the Second Amendment if Garland were to join the Supreme Court.

“Judicially, it’s in a heap of trouble,” Pratt said. “Happily, the Second Amendment is all about people like Judge Garland, so there is a limit to how far he can go, I think.”

He went on to say that Republicans in Congress should impeach jurists like Garland for their supposed hostility to the Constitution.

Pratt has a history of saying that the Second Amendment is meant to give people the right to assassinate or intimidate leaders they don’t like.

In Pratt’s view, the Second Amendment was created in order to instill in politicians “a healthy fear” in “the back of their minds” that they will be assassinated so “they’ll behave.”

He explicitly told Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., that she “should do her job in constant trepidation,” knowing that if she tries “to disarm Americans the way the British crown tried 240 years ago, the same sovereign people who constituted this government using the cartridge box someday may need to reconstitute it, as clearly anticipated by the Declaration of Independence.”

When Alan Colmes asked him if he really does believe that politicians “should have a healthy fear of being shot,” Pratt replied: “Sure, that’s what the Second Amendment is all about.

Despite such rhetoric, Sen. Cruz has diligently courted and raised money for Pratt's group:

Cruz has a close relationship with GOA, boasting of their endorsement at a presidential debate in September, joining a conference call with its members in which he credited the group for his election to the Senate, and appointing the group’s chairman, Tim Macy, to lead the “Second Amendment Coalition” he launched just days after 14 people were shot and killed in San Bernardino, California.

When GOA mobilized to help defeat background check legislation in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, the New York Times identified Cruz as the gun group’s “key ally in the Senate.”

JCN Laughably Changes Course In Attempt To Paint Merrick Garland As A 'Liberal Extremist'

Back in 2010, as President Obama was considering possible nominees to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court, Judicial Crisis Network attorney Carrie Severino mused, “Of those the president could nominate, we could do a lot worse than Merrick Garland," adding that a Garland nomination could bring down “the tension and the politics” surrounding the brewing Supreme Court battle.

It must have been somewhat awkward for Severino, then, when President Obama did nominate Garland for the Supreme Court this year and she had to pivot to claiming that Garland is actually a liberal extremist who should never be confirmed by the Senate.

Of course, the objection that groups like JCN have to Garland’s nomination has nothing to do with the nominee. Instead, conservative groups, led by JCN, were pressuring Senate Republicans to block any Obama nominee to the Supreme Court even before Garland was named.

So it’s been amusing to watch JCN as it grasps for arguments to oppose Garland, the most recent being a web ad that the group is promoting in the home states of vulnerable Republican senators that derides Democrats for calling Garland a “moderate.” Instead, JCN told USA Today, Garland is a “liberal extremist.” The ad claims that under a Supreme Court with the “liberal extremist” Garland as a member, the Second Amendment would be “gutted” and “partial-birth abortion legalized” and Garland would become the “tie-breaking vote for Obama’s big government liberalism.”

We’ve already debunked JCN and its allies’ weak attempts at portraying Garland as “hostile” to gun rights. This is just reinforced by the fact that the only news source JCN could find to cite in its ad about Garland’s supposedly “strong hostility to gun owner rights” is the NRA’s magazine.

The “partial-birth” abortion claim is even more of a puzzle since, as far as we know, Garland has never ruled on the issue. That claim seems to be based entirely on the fact that Garland was nominated by President Obama.

Some conservative groups are not even bothering to claim that Garland is an unacceptable nominee and are instead focusing on bogus procedural arguments against considering his nomination. But JCN, Severino says, has a duty to be “out there combating the spin” about the nominee. That argument would be so much more convincing if the “spin” didn’t so closely resemble what she herself said just six years ago.

Of course, what can you expect from an organization that was founded as the Judicial Confirmation Network under President George W. Bush, only to completely change its name and core mission once President Obama took office.

Cruz Gun Adviser: Obama Nominated Garland To 'Ruin The Second Amendment And Destroy This Country'

A top gun-rights adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign claimed this weekend that President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court is “his last-ditch effort” to “ruin the Second Amendment and destroy this country.”

Tim Macy, the chairman of the radical gun group Gun Owners of America and co-chair of Cruz’s “Second Amendment Coalition,” discussed the Supreme Court nomination in an interview Sunday with Mark Walters on “Armed America Radio.”

Macy said that Obama has “run up against the wall every time he’s tried” to “destroy the country” with gun restrictions, but that the Supreme Court vacancy is “his last-ditch effort before he leaves office to ruin the Second Amendment and destroy this country with Merrick Garland as his pick.”

Macy falsely claimed that Garland “supported the D.C. gun ban” — in fact, Garland, a federal appeals court judge in Washington, D.C., voted to rehear a case involving Washington’s handgun ban, which does not indicate at all where he stood on the merits of the case. In fact, Garland voted the same way as other judges on the court including Judge A. Raymond Randolph, whom Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times once called “one of the most outspoken and agenda-driven conservatives on the entire federal bench.”

“Clearly, if Garland got back on the court, the whole Heller decision, individual right to bear arms, would be put in severe jeopardy,” Macy claimed, “and you would have to imagine it would be gotten rid of as quick as the court could get another case up before them, they’d be looking for the case to bring up.”

Macy also brought up another case that gun groups have been using to attack Garland, in which Garland joined in a ruling that held that the FBI could temporarily store background check information from gun sales for audit purposes. Macy absurdly claimed that this shows that Garland “supports the ability of a president to illegally use executive power to advance liberal causes like taking guns away from honest citizens.”

These, he said, were all reasons to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell so that he “keeps that nomination on hold until the president’s gone and we have a new president.”

Phyllis Schlafly: No SCOTUS Nominee 'Until We Have A Republican Who Will Appoint Somebody In The Nature of Scalia'

Phyllis Schlafly, the anti-feminist icon and enthusiastic Donald Trump endorser, characteristically abandoned all pretense of nonpartisanship when discussing the Supreme Court vacancy in a recent interview with “Armed America Radio,” saying that Republicans should hold firm in blocking a nominee until a Republican is in the White House.

“We need the Republicans to stand firm and say, ‘We’ve got a big election coming up and that should change the complexion of the Supreme Court and we don’t want any new nominee on the court until we have a Republican who will appoint somebody of the nature of Scalia,’” Schlafly told host Mark Walters on March 20. (She did not specify whether she was simply hoping that the next president will be a Republican or if she was suggesting that the GOP block all Democratic Supreme Court picks in the future.)

This prompted Walters to ask her about the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency, which Schlafly said made her “scared to death.”

The solution, she said, was for Republicans to unite around Trump because “your gun rights and all kinds of other rights” are on the line.

“We have a two-party system in this country and if you want a third party I invite you to move to Europe, where they have lots of useless third parties,” she said.

In an op-ed yesterday, Schlafly invoked the late First Lady Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign in urging the GOP to obstruct Obama’s Supreme Court nominee:

The U.S. Senate should follow the famous advice of the late First Lady Nancy Reagan and “just say no” to Obama’s nominee.

A Baseless Attack Against Garland On ACA Cases

When you have a Supreme Court nominee as well respected across the political and ideological spectrum as Merrick Garland, it’s no wonder that far right groups’ attacks against him make so little sense. Their “he hates the Second Amendment” attack last week was so illogical that it just made them look foolish. A new attack relating to religious liberty and the Affordable Care Act is equally baseless.

As with the Second Amendment example, the new attack is not based at all on any substantive ruling by Judge Merrick – not a written dissent, nor a majority opinion he authored or joined, nor a concurrence he penned. Instead, his critics are reading into his votes on whether certain three-panel decisions should be reconsidered by the entire D.C. Circuit in what is called an en banc review.

The first involved a D.C. Circuit panel decision called Priests For Life v. HHS, which is currently one of the many cases consolidated into Zubik v. Burwell, which will be argued before the Supreme Court later this week. The case concerns the ability of religiously affiliated nonprofits to opt out of the requirement to provide their employees certain contraception health insurance coverage without a co-pay. The law allows an accommodation so the employees can get the coverage without their employers having to contract, arrange, or pay for it. Instead, the employers simply tell the insurer or the federal government of their objection, at which point the insurer must offer the coverage separately to employees who want it. But some religious nonprofits assert that even this accommodation violates their religious liberty. A unanimous three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit (which did not include Garland) upheld the law as not violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Hardly an outlier, the same legal conclusion has been reached by the 2nd Circuit, the 3rd Circuit, the 5th Circuit, the 6th Circuit, the 7th Circuit, the 10th Circuit, and the 11th Circuit. Last fall, the 8th Circuit reached the opposite conclusion, creating a circuit split that will be resolved by the Supreme Court.

In any event, Life Site News slams Judge Garland for voting against having the entire D.C. Circuit rehear the Priests for Life case. A vote for or against en banc review, absent an accompanying opinion, does not necessarily tell you anything about why the judge voted that way. In fact, several of the judges wrote or joined lengthy opinions explaining why they were for or against an en banc review. Chief Judge Garland joined none of them. Neither did George W. Bush nominee Thomas Griffith or Clinton nominee David Tatel, both of whom voted along with Chief Judge Garland not to rehear the case. The majority of the court voted against en banc review, so we don’t know how Garland would have voted on the merits of the case.

There could be any number of reasons not to want to review a panel decision; perhaps you agree with it; perhaps you think the issue is not important enough to merit that unusual step; perhaps you think a different case would be a better vehicle for addressing the legal issues; perhaps you’re concerned about the court’s workload; perhaps you know that numerous other circuits are addressing the exact same question and that  regardless of whether your court reconsiders the panel decision — the issue will be resolved by the Supreme Court, so that an en banc review would be a pointless waste of time and resources.

Indeed, that last scenario is what happened in the second ACA case that Life Site News attacks Judge Garland for. In that case, Halbig v. Burwell, a D.C. Circuit panel struck down the ACA’s subsidies structure in response to a legal attack widely recognized as purely politically motivated and legally weak (to be charitable) effort to destroy the ACA. In September 2014, the full D.C. Circuit voted without noted dissent to rehear the case, with no judge writing separately to explain their reasoning. The parties submitted detailed briefs and replies, in preparation for scheduled oral arguments in December. But then the Supreme Court accepted a case from the 4th Circuit raising the same issue, King v. Burwell, leading the D.C. Circuit to cancel its own planned oral arguments as a waste of time. So we don’t know how Chief Judge Garland would have voted on the merits of the case. (The conservative Roberts Court rejected the challenge in a 6-3 vote.)

Perhaps Chief Judge Garland, seeing how much effort went into an ultimately unnecessary en banc proceeding in the ACA subsidies case, didn’t want to repeat that scenario in the ACA contraception coverage case, knowing that the Supreme Court would likely be the ultimate arbiter of the legal issue.

The point is, we don’t know. We can’t know. Chief Judge Garland’s votes on whether to reconsider panel opinions simply don’t tell us anything about his views on the merits of the case, unless he writes or joins an opinion explaining his reasoning, which he did not do in these cases.

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Supreme Court Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Thursday 07/21/2016, 1:50pm
Earlier this week, former House GOP Leader Tom DeLay told radio host Steve Malzberg that if Hillary Clinton is elected president, Senate Republicans should continue to obstruct the judicial nominating process and simply refuse to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. DeLay, who has so far refused to endorse Donald Trump, tried to play down fears about the judicial nominations of a potential President Clinton by saying that if enough conservatives are elected to Congress, “it doesn’t matter who is president, the Senate can control” which judicial appointees get confirmed.... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Wednesday 07/20/2016, 5:25pm
One theme of this year’s Republican National Convention is the Religious Right getting fully on board the Trump Train. Even before he vanquished Ted Cruz, his final primary opponent, Trump has been aggressively courting the Religious Right, and he has recently sought to shore up support from the movement leaders who backed Cruz and other candidates. Yes, Trump is a habitual liar whose Bible-waving and political use of religious is transparently cynical, but that isn’t stopping Religious Right leaders from rallying around him. And why not? He allowed the Religious Right to write... MORE
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 07/20/2016, 1:55pm
Today on “The 700 Club,” Pat Robertson congratulated Donald Trump, who has repeatedly courted the televangelist's support, for officially securing the GOP nomination for president, claiming that Trump is “professing his faith” on the campaign trail. Robertson said that Trump “understands that the evangelicals are crucial to winning this election,” which is why he has pledged to only appoint solidly conservative judges to the bench and push the Religious Right's political agenda. “Trump is willing to say, ‘Okay, you back me on this and I... MORE
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 07/20/2016, 12:05pm
For months, Republicans have said that they are refusing to consider anyone President Obama nominates to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court because they are simply following a (nonexistent) Senate tradition of blocking Supreme Court nominees in the final year of a president’s term. But yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell revealed the obvious: Republicans just want to hold the seat open to be filled by Donald Trump. “On that sad day when we lost Justice Scalia, I made another pledge that Obama would not fill this seat,” McConnell said in a speech to the... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Monday 07/11/2016, 2:41pm
Evangelical seminary president Richard Land told the American Family Association’s One News Now today that Donald Trump could help himself “enormously” with social conservatives “if he were to hold a press conference and say that if he is indeed elected president, that he will nominate Ted Cruz to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.” Land has previously promoted some pretty extreme ideas about the federal courts. Just after the November 2014 elections in which Republicans took control of the Senate, Land called on Republicans not to confirm a single... MORE
Miranda Blue, Monday 07/11/2016, 10:43am
A prominent anti-abortion lobbyist acknowledged this weekend that Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is deliberately slow-walking President Obama's federal judicial nominees at all levels in order to keep seats on the courts open for the next president to fill. Douglas Johnson, the legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said on Saturday at his group's convention in Virginia that "the left is quite unhappy with the number of nominations that have not come to a vote in the Senate." This, he said approvingly, is... MORE
Miranda Blue, Monday 07/11/2016, 10:27am
James Bopp, the general counsel of the National Right to Life Committee, who has been the brains behind the dismantling of campaign finance reforms and a driving force in the effort to chip away at abortion rights with incremental legal victories, urged abortion rights opponents to vote for Donald Trump last week, saying that Hillary Clinton as president would be “100 percent evil.” Speaking to a small group at the National Right to Life Committee’s convention outside of Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Bopp said that the vacancy on the Supreme Court and possible upcoming... MORE