Advocacy group Demand Justice on Tuesday urged Democratic presidential candidates to apply the same focus on the future of the entire federal judicial branch that President Donald Trump did in 2016, a focus which allowed him to immediately begin shaping the courts for generations to come when he took office.
Democratic candidates, the group said, should put significant thought into the kinds of judges they would nominate for federal seats and let voters know what they can expect from the judiciary under their potential administrations.
“In 2016, Donald Trump released a shortlist of possible Supreme Court picks, and it succeeded in rallying conservative voters to his side,” Demand Justice wrote. “In 2020, the Democratic candidates running for president should also state what kind of justices they would appoint. Doing so would show their commitment to the Supreme Court as an issue and draw a clear line in the sand about what is at stake in the coming election.”
Trump’s success in nominating judges has led to a federal appeals court system where six out of 10 judges are former corporate lawyers. Demand Justice’s own shortlist of 32 potential progressive nominees aims to counter that right-wing tilt and includes attorneys whose work has been focused on racial justice, civil rights, and human rights.
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“The combination of rising corporate power and eroding legal protections for workers and consumers has resulted in a system that empowers corporations to take advantage of individuals with near-impunity,” Demand Justice wrote earlier this year. “This trend has fed the massive transfer of wealth and political power away from everyday Americans and toward large corporations and their shareholders.”
“The next Democratic president must nominate judges who represent the antithesis of this,” the group added.
Demand Justice also drew attention to the Republican Senate’s tactics over the last several years as the party accumulated more and more judicial power—such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refusing to hold confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in the last months of President Obama’s administration, a move that enabled Trump to nominate Justice Neil Gorsuch; Republican senators’ and Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s conduct during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings in 2018; and McConnell’s use of the “nuclear option” for all presidential nominees, which allows the GOP to push through nominees with a simple majority.
“While Democrats play by the rules, Republicans are shredding the rule book, and the result is a partisan Supreme Court that works for corporations and the Republican Party and against everyone else,” Demand Justice chief counsel Christopher Kang said in a statement.
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