Attention has focussed on the president’s Supreme Court nominee but the problem is far more insidiousby Diane Roberts / July 12, 2018 / Leave a comment
As expected, Donald Trump has nominated an uber-conservative to the United States’s highest court. Groups supporting reproductive rights, civil rights, workers’ rights, environmental protection, and the separation of church and state, are mobilising to oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Senators are girding their loins, getting ready for a fight.
Everybody’s running towards Judge Kavanaugh, the big explosion, a Trumpist blast from the American Right. The Right is still bitter about Roe v Wade, universal healthcare and marriage equality.
But Trump’s best chance at destroying progressivism is actually in the lower courts. Nobody much notices these judges, but they’re at the front line of big cases long before they get all the way to Washington. The two dozen Trump’s already gotten through the Senate, and the 100-plus he can still appoint, are ticking time bombs waiting to go off.
By all accounts, Trump had no idea he’d be choosing so many judges when he was elected. According to some insider accounts, Trump didn’t expect to be elected in the first place. But conservative think-tanks, advocacy groups and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were ready, realising the opportunity that fate and the structural deformities of the Electoral College might hand Republicans. They had lists ready to go.
It wasn’t always a well-oiled process: two candidates were rated “Not Qualified” by the American Bar Association. One, Matthew Petersen, could not answer the basic questions about court procedure put to him by members of the senate judiciary committee. Petersen had never tried a case, never taken a deposition on his own, and could not define key legal terms, such as a “motion in limine,” which is a request to exclude evidence. An exasperated Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana said, “Just because you’ve seen ‘My Cousin Vinny’ doesn’t qualify you to be a federal judge.” Petersen later withdrew.
Some of Trump’s other picks were real doozies, too. There was Brett Talley, a former Republican speech writer, who apparently blogged favorably about the Ku Klux Klan, and “forgot” to mention he was married to a staffer in the Trump White House, and Jeff Mateer, who suggested that allowing gays to marry would open to the door to legalising bestiality. Plus, Mateer said, transgender children were part of “Satan’s plan.”