Wednesday, 20 Mar 2019

A progressive group is trying to create a 2020 litmus test on judges

It’s issued a report card rating senators on their record — and Amy Klobuchar got a failing grade.

Demand Justice, a progressive activist group dedicated to blocking Republican efforts to remake the federal judiciary, has issued a report card rating how Democratic senators voted on judges this past year. And it’s got some pretty harsh feedback for some presidential hopefuls.

The report card includes grades generated based on how senators have voted on the Supreme Court, circuit court, and district court nominees that President Trump put forth from 2017 to 2018, as well as their history of returning “blue slips” for judges tied to their states. (For judicial nominees who are associated with a particular state, the senators representing that state can indicate they approve of the nominee via a document known as a “blue slip.” If they withhold the blue slip, it signals that they disapprove. Historically, if a home-state senator did not return the blue slip for a nominee, that person would be effectively dropped from consideration. Republicans have said, however, they don’t intend to adhere to this norm.)

Factors that were used in Demand Justice’s report card calculation included the proportion of times a senator voted in favor of different judges. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who received a low grade, for example, is listed as voting to advance Trump’s circuit court judges nine out of 31 times and voting to approve Trump’s district court judges 70 percent of the time. Additionally, she returned a positive blue slip for Trump circuit court nominee David Stras and Demand Justice penalized her for doing so, even though it wouldn’t have blocked the nominee.

Trump has helped push judges through at a breakneck pace in the first two years of his presidency, and Demand Justice is among the activist groups urging Democrats to do everything they can to slow or stop it. The group argues, via its report card, that some senators simply aren’t doing enough.

While several of the prominent 2020 candidates, including Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Bernie Sanders, receive relatively positive ratings, Klobuchar and Michael Bennet, another potential candidate, are among those who earned a failing grade:

  • Elizabeth Warren: A
  • Cory Booker: A-
  • Bernie Sanders: A-
  • Kirsten Gillibrand: B+
  • Kamala Harris: B+
  • Amy Klobuchar: F
  • Michael Bennet: F

Judges will likely be a key part of the 2020 conversation down the line, given the additional court vacancies that a president will have to fill. In the meantime, Demand Justice has argued that Democratic lawmakers should object to as many Trump nominees as possible in an effort to block Republican attempts to stack the courts with conservative judges.

“Senators can condemn Trump until they’re blue in the face, but actions speak louder than words, and when it comes to judges, too many Democrats vote too often with Trump,” Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon said in a statement. “This report card should send a message to every Democrat, especially those who have their eyes on the White House in 2020, that progressives will hold them accountable if they don’t take the fate of our courts seriously.”

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