Commentary

Another new low: Trump nominates right-wing blogger to the U.S. Court of Appeals

There is more compelling evidence this week  of the critical importance of progressives paying close attention to (and fighting back against) Donald Trump’s frightening plans for remaking our federal judiciary. This is from court watchers at the nonpartisan Alliance for Justice:

“Paperwork submitted by John K. Bush, President Trump’s nominee for the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, reveals that Bush has spent a decade writing inflammatory and, often, offensive blog posts for the website Elephants in the Bluegrass.

Writing under a pseudonym, G. Morris, Bush authored more than 400 entries for the ultraconservative blog run by his wife Bridget Bush. While Bush pontificates on a broad swath of issues, one common theme runs throughout his writings: Bush displays a remarkable contempt for any issue he deems liberal or progressive, often launching into personal attacks on individuals he disagrees with. Bush’s writings should disqualify him for a lifetime seat on the federal bench for two reasons. First, Bush’s writings raise serious concerns about whether, as a judge, he will be able to approach the issues presented to him with an open mind, applying the law to the facts of the case without regard to his personal ideology. Second, Bush’s distasteful rhetoric demonstrates that he lacks the judicial temperament necessary to serve as a federal judge….

Reproduced below is a sampling of Bush’s troubling blog posts:

  • In a post entitled The Legacy From Dr. King’s Dream That Liberals Ignore, Bush conflates the goals of the civil rights movement with those of the pro-life movement, concluding with the following statement: ‘“The two greatest tragedies in our country—slavery and abortion—relied on similar reasoning and activist justices at the U.S. Supreme Court, first in the Dred Scott decision, and later in Roe.’
  • While live blogging from the 2016 Republican National Convention in July, Bush wrote Baring My Pre-Convention Thoughts, reflecting on the 2008 presidential election: ‘The Democrats were making history with the first serious African American candidate. McCain wasn’t the first anything. Only the most diehard of protestors thought it worth their time to protest him. This year is different. The Democrats are trying to win with the same game plan as in 2008, only substitute woman for Black.’

As Supreme Court expert Ian Millhiser of the Center for American Progress explains in an excellent post, “this is not normal.” What’s more, Bush’s legal views are extreme on an array of issues:

“In any event, Bush’s public statements and writings do not simply reveal political views that place him very far to the right. They also reveal legal opinions that are widely out of step with well-established law accepted by Democrats and Republicans alike. That’s not something that presidents typically look for in judicial nominees.”

Of course, this is just the beginning if progressives don’t push back. As was explained in this post a couple of weeks back, 15% of the federal judiciary now stands vacant and awaiting Trump nominations. Simply put, for those who care about resisting Trumpism, there is no more important battle in the coming months and years than the fight for our courts. With Thom Tillis sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee, let’s hope North Carolina voters let him know about their concerns in this area in the weeks and months ahead.

Commentary, News

Renee Ellmers nabs gig in Trump administration

Renee Ellmers has been named to a mid-level post in the Trump administration. The former North Carolina congresswoman, who initially won election as a conservative political outsider in 2010 and then saw herself branded as a traitor to the conservative cause by groups like the Koch brother-funded Americans for Prosperity — a switch that helped lead to her defeat in a 2016 Republican primary with George Holding (this despite her endorsement of Donald Trump) — has been named the Regional Director for Region 4 of the Department of Health and Human Services in Atlanta.

This is from an email sent by the acting director, Natalie Brevard Perry:

Dear valued stakeholders:

I am pleased to formally welcome Renee Ellmers as the new Regional Director for HHS Region 4, effective Monday!  After orientation at HHS Headquarters, her first day in Atlanta will be Wednesday, May 24, 2017.

Ms. Ellmers comes to us from the great state of North Carolina with a strong background in public service. For the past six years, she served as the U.S. Representative for North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District. In Congress, she served on the Health Subcommittee of the Energy & Commerce Committee.  Ms. Ellmers shared “I ran for office in 2010 because of the changes that were happening in healthcare policy; I wanted to be a voice for healthcare providers. After the 2016 election, I saw an opportunity to join the Department of Health and Human Services to serve the American people by helping the Administration provide patient-centered, quality healthcare.”

Ms. Ellmers is a Registered Nurse. She received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Oakland University. She currently lives in Dunn, North Carolina with her husband of 23 years, Brent, who is a General Surgeon, and her son Ben, a student at North Carolina University.

Welcome, Ms. Ellmers!

It will be interesting to see what the folks at AFP have to say about this appointment of someone whose defeat the group described as “a victory for economic freedom and a testament to the grassroots movement.” Although the announcement doesn’t make it clear, one presumes Ellmers will not be attempting to commute to such an important post from Dunn and will be moving to Atlanta.

Commentary, News

Activists to rally for healthcare at the General Assembly this evening

Despite the wet weather, organizers are still expecting a large gathering this evening at the General Assembly as the Forward Together movement led by Rev. William Barber rallies for healthcare access for all North Carolinians. This is from an announcement distributed by the N.C. Justice Center’s Health Advocacy Project:

TONIGHT: Rally for Health Care at the General Assembly in Raleigh at 6:00 p.m.

Join us tonight for a rally to save our health care outside the North Carolina General Assembly at 6:00 p.m.!

Earlier this month, the United States House of Representatives narrowly passed a disastrous health care bill to take away coverage from 24 million Americans and eviscerate the Medicaid program. On top of that, nine of North Carolina’s congressman voted for it. The fate of our nation’s health care now rests in the hands of the Senate.

On top of that, we have half a million North Carolinians that have been shut out of health coverage options because of the North Carolina General Assembly’s failure to expand access to Medicaid coverage.

These lawmakers need to hear from us. Now is the time to make your voice heard! Join us and our allies at the North Carolina NAACP to rally for our nation’s health care.

Click here to join us today outside the General Assembly in Raleigh to tell lawmakers to protect our health care!

And here is a preview video produced by the organizers:

Commentary

Simple solutions department: How lawmakers ought to respond to yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling

The lead editorial in this morning’s Greensboro News & Record offers a simple and logical solution for state lawmakers as they ponder yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on redistricting: end partisan gerrymandering now.

As the N&R editorial concludes:

“While justices argue among themselves, the rest of us can hope Monday’s ruling will lead to fairer elections. Politically, North Carolina is a closely divided state. Yet, not one of the 13 U.S. House races last year was competitive. The districts are stacked — 10 favoring Republicans and three heavily tilted for Democrats. The court’s majority found the legislature used race as the primary factor in creating two of those districts. It also recognized the link between race and partisan politics.

Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC, a plaintiff in the case coming up, believes the court fashioned a legal bridge. ‘Partisan gerrymandering is just as wrong as racial gerrymandering,’ he said Monday. His group supports nonpartisan redistricting. It’s past time to give that a try.

Amen. To learn more about the fight Phillips and his friends are waging, check out http://endgerrymanderingnow.org/.

News

BREAKING: U.S. Supreme Court upholds decision striking down NC congressional map

Here’s the interesting headline from Supreme Court watcher Professor Rick Hasen, who edits Election Law Blog:

Breaking and Analysis: Supreme Court on 5-3 Vote Affirms NC Racial Gerrymandering Case, with Thomas in Majority and Roberts in Dissent

The Supreme Court has issued this 5-3 opinion in Cooper v. Harris. Justice Kagan wrote the opinion for the Court, with Justice Thomas making the fifth vote for affirmance. Chief Justice Robert and Justices Alito and Kennedy dissented. That is an interesting lineup, to be sure.

Here’s the conclusion to Justice Kagan’s opinion:

“Applying a clear error standard, we uphold the District Court’s conclusions that racial considerations predominated in designing both District 1 and District 12. For District 12, that is all we must do, because North Carolina has made no attempt to justify race-based districting there. For District 1, we further uphold the District Court’s decision that §2 of the VRA gave North Carolina no good reason to reshuffle voters because of their race. We accordingly affirm the judgment of the District Court.”

State Senator Jeff Jackson (a lawyer from Mecklenburg County) offered this explanation of the ruling and its potential impact in a series of tweets:

“Breaking: U.S. Supreme Court rules that NC’s 2011 congressional map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered. The congressional map has since been redrawn, so this ruling doesn’t force a redraw – it just upholds the new congressional districts. We’re still waiting to hear whether/when our General Assembly will have to redraw its map, but this is a positive sign. Quick reminder: Even under the “new & improved” map, our closest congressional race was won by 15%. And that’s in a state that votes 50/50. Bottom-line for Supreme Court: NC GOP set target of at least 50% African American voters in 2 congressional districts, and you can’t do that. Bodes well for General Assembly case because GOP set the same 50%+ standard in 28 districts in the state legislature. Same rule should apply.”

Hasen and others are still processing the 79 page ruling. Stand by: We’ll have more details as they become available.