After the election, we issued a press release noting that Barack Obama had been handed a clear mandate to fill the federal bench with nominees who share his committment to justice and equality:
Looking at yesterday’s results, it’s incontrovertible that the election delivered a sweeping mandate for President-elect Obama to appoint federal judges who are committed to core constitutional values: justice, equality, and opportunity for all. In the election the public rejected the efforts of the right wing to stack the federal courts with ideological jurists like Justices Scalia and Alito often called “strict constructionists.” Rather the public selected now President-elect Obama after his repeated commitment to support compassionate judges who are faithful to the Constitution, its values, its principles and its history … Exit polling made clear that the Supreme Court was also a winning issue for Obama among voters themselves. Voters who said the Supreme Court was a factor in their votes broke for Obama 53 to 45. Voters who said that the Supreme Court was the most important factor provided Obama an even more lopsided victory — 57 to 41.
Not surprisingly, the Judicial Confirmation Network has a slightly different interpretation based entirely on a handful of cherry-picked state court races:
Americans strongly prefer judges who practice judicial restraint and resist the temptation to rule based on “empathy” or other passions — that is, to legislate from the bench. Last night’s election results must not be misinterpreted as a mandate for judicial activism in our courts. The principles of constitutionally limited government have been a hallmark of our system since our Founding. These results prove that those principles, far from being abandoned, enjoy broad support among the American people.
Seemingly knowing that that lame argument wasn’t going to convince anybody, JCN then trotted out a tiny poll conducted by right-wing pundit and pollster Kellyanne Conway as further proof that the public supports their view and, more importantly, declared that the burden of proof is now on Obama and his nominees to show they are qualified to sit on the federal bench and that they will be holding Senators accountable for their votes on his nominees:
But because candidate Obama announced a dramatic and unprecedented departure from the historic, commonly understood criteria for judicial nominees, he has shifted the burden of proof somewhat: it is now incumbent upon him and his administration, and the nominees themselves, to demonstrate to the American people that they will interpret the Constitution as it is written and not make it up as they go along, based on their own personal views.
Careful scrutiny by the Senate is certainly called for, and all of us can help in that task. We must ourselves scrutinize Obama nominees very carefully, and let the American people know what they are getting. We should view the votes on Obama judges as great opportunities. Far from preventing such votes, we should welcome them. Senators will be accountable for those votes in their home states.
This is especially interesting considering the fact that the JCN’s mission is to “support the confirmation of highly qualified individuals to the Supreme Court of the United States [and] ensure that the confirmation process for all judicial nominees is fair and that every nominee sent to the full Senate receives an up or down vote.”
Apparently, the “confirmation” part of the Judicial Confirmation Network’s name is reserved for Republican-nominated judges only. So now it looks like the primary focus of the Judicial Confirmation Network will be, paradoxically, to ensure that judicial nominees do not, in fact, get confirmed.