President-Elect Trump is preparing to transform the federal courts into a radical-right engine of retreat on the progress of the last century. Think overturning Roe v. Wade is scary? Think again, because some of Trump’s potential Supreme Court picks could take us back even further to the 19th century and Robber Baron era.
All options are now on the table for the American people to fight back against this takeover. After all, Republicans invited this battle when they shattered Senate tradition by stonewalling Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court for most of a year.
Now these Republican senators are waltzing past the U.S. courthouse where Judge Garland sits on Constitution Avenue to plan the confirmation of Trump’s first pick as a new justice – or two or three, if more vacancies occur – on the unabashedly ideological extreme right.
With the hard-right folks at the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society advising Trump, and fringe-right leader Stephen Bannon joining the White House inner circle, the newly elected Republican president is poised to turn back a century of progress.
The judges he picks for the Supreme Court are most likely to come from a slate of 21 potential nominees he made this year. We have serious doubts that many of these individuals will ever meet the “fair-and-impartial” standard.
By relying on ideology rather than impartiality in making appointments to these and other courts, Trump will follow in the steps of Republican predecessors. Historically, Republican presidents have imposed strict ideological litmus tests on judicial appointees while wielding those appointments as instruments of presidential power. In President George W. Bush’s final weeks in office, for example, we estimated that nearly half of the appeals court judges he named were associates of the Federalist Society -– an organization created to pack the courts with judges who rule based on a political agenda that favors the 1 percent over everyday Americans.
The specter of Trump’s list of hardcore ideologues-in-black-robes taking over the Supreme Court ought to inspire the fear of God in everyone, whether they voted for Trump or not. These men and women would take a legal bulldozer to the bulwarks of our constitutional rights.
Take Texas Supreme Court Justice Don R. Willett, a radical conservative. He wrote a concurring opinion in 2015 suggesting it’s appropriate for courts to second-guess legislatures and strike down basic health and safety regulations in the name of economic liberty. His views are frighteningly reminiscent of an earlier era, when a legal philosophy prevailed that the regulation of economic activity was impermissible under the Constitution and industrialists ran roughshod over workers and the environment.
Willett isn’t the only one who is hostile to working people: another judge on the list, Steven Colloton of the Eighth Circuit, is notorious for decisions that allowed Tyson Foods to rip off workers to the tune of $24 million. In another case, Judge Colloton wrote that a woman employee who reported sexual harassment could not take legal action when the boss allegedly retaliated by firing her.
And 11th U.S. Circuit Judge William Pryor called Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.” He characterized Roe and Miranda v. Arizona, the landmark Supreme Court decision from 1966 about criminal suspects and police questioning, as “the worst examples of judicial activism.”
How else might Trump’s justices turn back the clock? On “60 Minutes” this week Trump said he was “fine with” the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples. Stop ― have his advisers told him yet that the GOP national platform condemned that ruling’s Supreme Court majority as “five unelected lawyers” who “robbed” Americans of their “legitimate constitutional authority”?
If Trump’s appointees are confirmed to the Supreme Court, they would attempt to decimate a woman’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion, with significant restrictions on access to contraception possible as well; could reverse progress made in the ongoing struggle for equality; and could strengthen corporate interests at the expense of working families.
Americans are waking up to the threats of a bone-rattling new reality coming their way, very soon. We invite them to join us as we get ready to oppose with every fiber of our being any attempt to pack our federal courts with men and women who refuse to believe that the law and Constitution protect all of us, regardless of wealth, race, gender, gender identity, religion, age or politics.
Here’s a notice: We are mad, we are fired up, and we’re not moving to Canada. Instead we’re going to pull out every stop we can to preserve courts that people trust and to avoid revisiting an era of darkness in America.