Commentary

New report offers damning assessment of Trump judicial picks

Brett Kavanaugh

Thomas Farr

A new report from the national NAACP offers a damning assessment of numerous Donald Trump federal court nominees and the president’s strategy to alter the judiciary. Among the nominations featured is the ultimately failed one of North Carolina’s Thomas Farr — the controversial conservative lawyer who has spent this week defending the state’s gerrymandered legislative maps in the ongoing Common Cause v. Lewis trial. Interestingly, Farr is the only one of the nominees highlighted whose nomination was defeated.

As the group noted in a release accompanying the report:

In 2 ½ years, President Donald Trump has appointed an alarming number of nominees with appalling records of enabling or defending voter suppression,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO.” This is no accident, and the pattern is devastating. Undermining voting rights is now a qualification for nomination to the federal bench. This administration is weaponizing the federal judiciary to restrict the vote.

Our courts are essential to ensuring full political participation for everyone under the Constitution and civil rights laws. The American people deserve judges who are impartial, fair, and committed to equal justice under law. It is time to stand up to this extraordinary perversion of the judicial appointment process to undermine our democracy. Our rights to fully participate in the political process lie in the balance.”

This is from the introduction to “Trump’s Judicial Playbook: Weaponizing the Bench to suppress the vote”:

The NAACP seeks to shine a light on the Trump administration’s strategy to weaponize the judiciary to restrict the vote. Enabled by the Senate’s short-circuited confirmation process that minimizes scrutiny of nominees, Trump has appointed 126 individuals to the federal bench. Judges with demonstrated hostility to voting rights are now populating courts at every level, from Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, to the appellate courts which decide most of our law, to the district courts where voting rights cases are first filed. Several nominees were appointed to Southern jurisdictions, which serve large communities of color and hear an outsized share of voting rights cases. Many of the nominees are very young and will serve for decades.

This is no accident. Undermining voting rights is a qualification for nomination by Donald Trump to the federal bench. North Carolina nominee Thomas Farr’s notorious personal engagement in voter intimidation is only one example. Prior to their appointments, several nominees filed briefs seeking to gut the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County. In the aftermath of Shelby County, nominees aggressively defended the adoption of voter ID laws and other restrictive voting measures. North Carolina’s notorious voter suppression law, which “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision,”9 was defended by not one, not two, but three Trump judicial nominees on the same brief. Another Trump nominee successfully defended the nation’s worst voter purge law before the Supreme Court, allowing its application throughout the country. Yet another nominee defended the Trump campaign from claims of voter intimidation and then defended Trump’s sham voting rights commission. At least two Trump judicial nominees repeated widely discredited arguments to support adding the citizenship question to the Census, which the Supreme Court has now rejected. Still another nominee argued that non-citizens should not even be counted in the Census. At a Judiciary Committee hearing to consider his appointment to the Fifth Circuit which presides over the largest minority population of any circuit, another Trump nominee refused to say whether voting discrimination even exists.

…Although each nominee was vigorously opposed by the NAACP and multiple civil rights organizations, only Thomas Farr’s nomination was defeated by the Senate. This is a travesty of justice. We have every reason to expect more objectionable nominations. There are 51 judicial nominees pending before the Senate and 77 more vacancies to fill. We must halt abuse of the judicial appointment process to suppress the voting power of communities of color. We must demand that each of Trump’s judicial nominations receives the Senate scrutiny it deserves under the Constitution. We must ensure that the Senate confirms only those individuals who are committed to our foundational goal of equal political participation for all.

Click here to read the full report.

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