Civil rights and progressive groups are gearing up to fight President Donald Trump’s pick to fill an impending vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, fearing the potential impact on access to family planning and healthcare and anti-discrimination efforts.
The president announced last night that he would appoint Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals – D.C. Circuit as an associate justice to replace Anthony Kennedy, who is retiring at the end of the month. Kavanaugh was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2003 to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court and eventually was confirmed in 2006.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, along with Alliance for Justice, People for the American Way and a number of other advocacy organizations, hosted a conference call after the announcement, raising concerns about appointment.
The Alliance For Justice (AFJ) opposed Kavanaugh’s appointment to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. “We studied his record when he was up for the Circuit Court and had to oppose him. Now nearly 300 decisions later, he’s shown us who he is and we will oppose his nomination to the high court,” said AFJ President and CEO Nan Aron. “In addition to depriving millions of people access to healthcare and abortion, Brett Kavanaugh has established a record that shows lack of commitment to consumer protection, workers rights, clean air and water, and the fundamental principal that no president is above the law,” she said.
“President Trump has shown his hostility to our fundamental civil and human rights. And it is clear that this informs who he appoints to serve on the Supreme Court,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference. “The stakes of this vacancy are enormously high. During his political campaign, Trump bragged that he would only pick justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade and undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and tonight he made good on that promise,” she said.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., went so far as to say that the nomination process should not proceed until special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation is complete and the American public can feel confident that the president is not a subject of an investigation. “This president is besieged by criminal investigations,” she said.
Kavanaugh was among a number of potential nominees compiled for the president by The Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society, another issue raised among the nearly dozen organizations. “This is a process given to the president constitutionally, not outsourced to outside, ideological organizations,” Ifill said.
Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James credited Trump via Twitter for “picking a brilliant jurist dedicated to upholding and respecting the Constitution.” Kavanaugh was among eight “highly qualified candidates” that the conservative policy think tank suggested in a blog post in March 2016. The foundation also described it this morning as “a very promising choice.”
Ifill reiterated: “We’re not asking for a nominee that will necessarily line up with all our views,” pointing out that Kennedy made decisions with which the organization both agreed and disagreed. “His vote was always in play, which is all you can ask for. We want a chance to convince that nominee,” she said.
Among potential nominees, Kavanaugh stands out for his writing about the immunization of the president from criminal prosecution while in office, Ifill said. “We need to know the next Supreme Court justice will be independent of the president,” she said, while others reiterated their fear that Kavanaugh would not serve as a property check on the executive branch.
Aron recalled the fight against the nomination of Robert Bork 30 years ago, during the Reagan administration. “People said we couldn’t beat him but we did. And instead of a Bork legacy on the Supreme Court, we got the Anthony Kennedy legacy. And that has made a critical difference in the lives of millions of people. It happened because people of conscience stood up and said we will not accept Robert Bork’s vision of America.”