WASHINGTON ― Two and a half years into his presidency, Donald Trump has filled up federal courts at all levels with judges who have “appalling” records of enabling voter suppression, and it’s part of a broader effort to weaken minorities’ voting rights nationwide, the NAACP charges in a new report.
The report, Trump’s Judicial Playbook: Weaponizing The Bench To Suppress The Vote, looks at nine of Trump’s judicial nominees with glaring records on voting rights. The NAACP opposed all of them when they came up for Senate confirmation votes, but only one, Thomas Farr, who engaged in voter suppression, did not get confirmed.
Among those who made the list: Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who in his first term on the court joined the ruling that blessed extreme partisan gerrymandering, would have allowed a citizenship question to be added to the Census, and would have reconsidered a ruling invalidating state legislative districts as racially gerrymandered.
In his prior gig on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Kavanaugh also wrote the unanimous, three-judge court opinion upholding South Carolina’s voter ID law in a challenge under the Voting Rights Act.
Kyle Duncan, now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, previously represented North Carolina in its defense of its sweeping voter suppression law that included a strict voter ID requirement, eliminated same-day voter registration and barred out-of-precinct voting. An appeals court struck down the law in 2016, ruling that it discriminated against black voters and “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision.” Duncan appealed the case to the Supreme Court, calling it “ludicrous” to suggest the law echoed Jim Crow laws. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal.
Andrew Brasher, now a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, previously filed a brief in the landmark Shelby County v. Holder case in 2013 that resulted in the Supreme Court gutting a core provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As Alabama’s solicitor general, he argued that Congress violated the Constitution by reauthorizing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Brasher also oversaw his office’s efforts to deny the Census Bureau the ability to count non-citizens as part of the census.
It’s no accident that so many of Trump’s lifetime federal judges have records of being hostile to voting rights, said NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson.
“The pattern is devastating,” he said in a statement. “Undermining voting rights is now a qualification for nomination to the federal bench. This administration is weaponizing the federal judiciary to restrict the vote.”
A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The judges highlighted by the NAACP are now on federal courts at every level, from the Supreme Court to appeals courts, which have the final say on the vast majority of federal court cases, to district courts, where voting rights cases are first filed. Some of these judges are incredibly young, too, meaning they will be on the bench for decades.
Eric Murphy, for one, is 39. Now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, he previously defended Ohio’s notorious voter purge law before the Supreme Court in 2018, arguing that the state should be able to drop people from its voter rolls if they don’t vote for six years and don’t respond to a postcard asking them to confirm their address. The court upheld the law in a contentious 5-4 decision, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor writing in her dissent that the law will disproportionately make it harder for “minority, low-income, disabled, homeless, and veteran voters to cast a ballot.”
“Personnel is policy. We must view judges as policy, too,” said Leslie Proll, NAACP’s senior adviser on judicial nominations. “Trump is packing the courts to accomplish what he cannot do elsewhere.”
You can read the NAACP’s full report here: