Commentary, Trump Administration

National Women’s Law Center expert explains danger in Trump’s ongoing judicial system takeover

Trump 11th Circuit nominee Andrew Brasher – Image: National Women’s Law Center

As the country rebuilds after the sham impeachment trial, Trump and the Senate have already resumed business as usual confirming their extreme judges. Last week, Trump, with the help of the Republican-controlled Senate, confirmed his SIXTH judge onto the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, half of the judges on this Circuit alone are Trump-nominated. Here are three reasons why Trump’s takeover of the Eleventh Circuit is dangerous for abortion rights.

1. The Eleventh Circuit is where some of the most egregious attacks on abortion are taking place. This Circuit handles thousands of appeals a year in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Alabama made headlines last May when it passed the most restrictive abortion ban in the country. Last year, Georgia passed a law that would impose a six-week abortion ban, before most people know they are even pregnant. And while the blatantly unconstitutional bans have been blocked by the district courts, we know the states won’t stop passing laws that attack abortion access. In fact, state lawmakers in Florida are currently considering making their forced parental involvement bill even worse. So, we know that these issues will continue to come up in the Eleventh Circuit.

2. Trump’s pick, Andrew Brasher, like most of Trump’s judges, has an extreme record on reproductive rights. Andrew Brasher is currently an Alabama District Court judge (Trump also nominated him to that seat, and he has been in that seat for only 10 months). Prior to that position, Brasher was Solicitor General (SG) of Alabama. During his tenure as SG, he defended several abortion restrictions and was vocal about his anti-abortion views. For example, he questioned the validity of the landmark 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, claiming that it was “an uncertain area of the law.” As a circuit court judge, Brasher would be bound by the Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit precedent, but given his past statements and actions, he could take any opportunity to undermine access to abortion, as we have seen happen with other anti-abortion Trump judges. (see also)

3. Trump has utterly failed to appoint judges who are representative of the population of the Eleventh Circuit and who can recognize the lived realities of those most negatively impacted. The Eleventh Circuit is located in the Deep South and presides over the highest percentage of African-American residents of any circuit. And yet the Circuit currently only has one African-American judge. That Trump is adding another cis white young man to our federal judiciary is not surprising given Trump’s abysmal record on judicial diversity. The Eleventh Circuit is not at all representative of the population that the circuit covers. And that’s a major problem when issues like the disproportionate impact of abortion restrictions on Black women are being considered by that same Circuit Court. As Judge Carlton Reeves has said about the need for a diverse judiciary: “To find truth, we need all angles, all distances, all perspectives… That is what justice requires.” Justice requires judges who can recognize the real-life impact of laws on those most marginalized, but we need judges who represent a diverse set of lived experiences to help ensure that that happens. But Brasher’s confirmation to the Eleventh Circuit is a profound example of how far in the wrong direction we are going under Trump.

The cumulative effect of a Trump-dominated Eleventh Circuit could have a devastating impact on those living in the Deep South for decades to come.

This is why we say, forever and always, courts matter.

Teresa Lau is Senior Counsel for Judges & Courts, Reproductive Rights and Health at the National Women’s Law Center. This essay  appeared originally on the group’s website.

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