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America is in pain. Our government and institutions are infused with white supremacy — including the judiciary, the branch responsible for delivering impartial justice. As people across the nation rise up and demand equal justice under the law, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to hear them.
Instead, his focus is singular: Confirm federal judges — to lifetime positions — who will do through the courts what the Trump administration cannot do legislatively. This is unacceptable. People across the country must make their voices heard and tell their senators to reject these nominees.
Federal judges decide important cases on who has access to voting, health care, fair pay, disability rights, reproductive freedom, employment protections, and so much more. And far too often in our country’s history, courts have made legally invisible the humanity — and the pain and suffering — of communities of color.
Now, the confluence of two crises — systemic racism marked by state violence against Black people and COVID-19 — has laid bare the unjust harms against communities of color, and how our judicial system has enabled and perpetuated these crises.
For that reason, we must work together to create a judiciary that is fair, just, and representative of the diversity of our country.
Yet in this unprecedented moment, McConnell, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, and others in the Senate are doing the opposite. They are not answering nationwide calls for justice. They are not holding President Trump accountable for inciting violence or using military force against peaceful protestors. They are not providing pandemic relief to communities. Instead, they are prioritizing the confirmation of judges who will roll back progress on civil and human rights and prevent the progress we have yet to make.
Trump, McConnell, and Graham recently celebrated the 200 th lifetime judge they have confirmed. The last two of which are emblematic of their agenda when it comes to the courts. Both of these recently confirmed judges pose threats to our democracy and the safety of our communities.
First, Justin Walker, was recently confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He is — not coincidentally — a long-time friend of McConnell. In March, as congressional leaders worked to reach a deal to provide some relief to communities devastated by COVID-19, McConnell shut down the Senate before they could pass any meaningful legislation so he could attend celebrations for Walker’s swearing-in to a district court judgeship in Kentucky.
Weeks later, McConnell called the Senate back to D.C. not to address the public health pandemic and economic disaster families are experiencing, but to promote his protégé, Walker, to a seat on the D.C. Circuit that does not even become vacant until September.
And to add insult to injury: Walker is wildly inexperienced. His chief accomplishments include his close friendship with McConnell, his press tour in defense of controversial then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his allegiance to “Kavanaugh’s America,” and his disdain for the Affordable Care Act that provides life-saving health care access for millions of people.
Cory Wilson was the 200 th confirmation and now is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He shows similar disregard for administering fair and impartial justice. Wilson also touted his hostility to the ACA, calling it “perverse” and “illegitimate.” He supports discriminatory voting restrictions that disproportionately impede the voting rights of Black and Brown communities. He attacks politicians like President Obama and once said “an intellectually honest Democrat” was a “rare sighting.”
Wilson would make a better Fox News commentator than federal judge. Yet his reward is a lifetime seat on a bench that could decide some of the most important civil rights cases.
Both Walker and Wilson reflect McConnell and Graham’s fixation with anti-civil rights judicial nominees. They are picking people who have dedicated their careers to putting our rights at risk — from health care access to voting to racial justice.
These judges overwhelmingly do not reflect the diversity of our country. More than three quarters of Trump’s judges are men, and more than 85 percent are white. None of his appellate court nominees are African American, and only one is Latina, even though the legal profession has more women and attorneys of color than ever before.
Recent administrations have recognized the need for our courts to look more like the people they represent, but Trump has nominated the least diverse group of judges in decades. Right now, McConnell, Graham, and their colleagues are more focused on stacking the courts with unfit judges than answering calls to focus on the safety, health, and economy of our communities.
Courts cannot be separated from fights for racial justice or any other civil rights issue. Like all of our nation’s institutions, the judiciary has perpetuated violence and harm against Black and Brown people and communities. By staffing the courts with fair judges, we can reshape our judicial branch and infuse in this institution a commitment to equal justice under the law.
It is past time for our leaders to answer the calls for justice, relief, and real change. This is especially true for the Senate, where McConnell and Graham’s zeal for stacking the courts is dictating the agenda at the expense of democracy and life-saving legislation. They and their colleagues must stop their conveyer belt of extremist judicial nominees and immediately prioritize the demands for action on police brutality and COVID-19.
Across the country, people are crying out for justice. We must demand that senators hear us and oppose these offensive nominees.
Lena Zwarensteyn is Fair Courts Campaign Director, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
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