Going Courting

I know there’s a fierce competition for the title of “most harmful consequence” of the Trump Administration. There’s so much to choose from: sabotaging the Affordable Care Act, waging war on public education, reviving the racist and ineffective drug war,  ensuring that new environmental regulations aren’t informed by science (and older ones aren’t enforced), drastically diminishing America’s role in world affairs (and making us a laughingstock among sentient people)…well, choosing just one assault on good government seems impossible.

That said, I want to make the case for Trump’s corruption of the federal judiciary.

Assuming Democrats take back (at least) the House in 2018, and further assuming Trump’s presidency won’t last the full four years (an assumption I make, given Muller’s investigation and Trump’s petulance), we can call a halt to most of the administration’s March to Armageddon and begin to repair the considerable damage done by the Confederacy of Dunces who currently hold sway in the Cabinet and White House.

The Courts, however, are another matter. Federal Judges have lifetime appointments, and what is particularly unnerving is the rapidity with which Trump is placing truly horrific nominees in vacancies that a destructive and partisan Congress prevented the Obama Administration from filling.

Readers who follow the news–which is most of those who come to this site–have probably heard about one of Trump’s most recent nominees, who is not only an unqualified whack job, but ethically challenged; he “neglected” to mention that his wife is employed by the Administration as Chief of Staff of the office that selects judicial nominees. As El Jefe reports at the World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Shop, Inc.,

This nominee is a 36 year old young man, 3 years out of law school who has never argued a case in court.  Hell, he’s never even argued a motion in court.  He’s a blogger who writes highly partisan posts, likes to call the last Democratic candidate Hillary Rotten Clinton, and wrote a piece during the last administration about how Barack Obama was destroying the Constitution by introducing legislation for background checks after the Newtown massacre.  He was a speechwriter for Mitt Romney in 2012, and an aide to Luther Strange when he was appointed to be senator after Granny Sessions was named attorney general.

Who is this candidate, and what’s he nominated for?  Why he is Brett Talley, and he’s been nominated to a lifetime position as a federal judge in the Middle District of Alabama.  Oh, and it gets better; after coming to Washington with Luther Strange, he then took a job in the Justice Department in the office that does…wait for it…appointments to federal judgeships.  Can you spell inside track?  And one last little tidbit…he was unanimously rated by the American Bar Association as “not qualified” for this appointment.

Trump’s other nominees are equally horrific: Salon recently reported on some of them in an article titled “Trump’s Judicial nominees are so ludicrous, he may just be trolling us.”The ABA unanimously evaluated nominee Steven Grasz unqualified, explaining that Grasz’ “professional peers” reported that the nominee “puts his right-wing political views ahead of the law — and is “gratuitously rude” to boot.”

It takes a lot to be so noxious that the ABA will confer this kind of rating. For instance, Trump nominee Jeff Mateer, an appalling bully who says trans children are part of “Satan’s plan” and has suggested that same-sex marriage will lead to “people marrying their pets,” still got a “qualified” rating, though some members of the panel expressed reservations.

Two of Trump’s other district judge nominations, Charles Goodwin and Holly Lou Teeter, also received not-qualified ratings. Part of the issue here is that Trump has decided not to submit his picks to ABA review before a formal nomination, something that has only been done before by George W. Bush. It’s a symbol of the tribalism of the right, and conservatives’ increasing hostility to anyone perceived as not belonging to their tribe. Trump promised during the campaign that he would simply let the far-right Federalist Society pick his nominees for him, and that appears to be exactly what he’s doing. Just as conservatives have opted out of mainstream media, turning instead to Fox News and even more truth-hostile outlets like Breitbart, they’re turning away from mainstream professional organizations and other gatekeepers who seek to maintain a level of proficiency and competence that is seen as inherently threatening to the conservative agenda. If anything, Trump’s judges suggest that he’s thumbing his nose at the very idea of fitness and competence, just to show he can.

Of all his assaults on the rule of law, corrupting the federal judiciary by packing the courts with an assortment of (overwhelmingly white and male) partisan hacks is likely to do the most long-term damage.

Unfortunately, a Senate devoid of Republican statesmen is all too willing to confirm these deeply problematic appointments.

41 thoughts on “Going Courting

  1. Usually, at age 86-to-be soon, I regret I won’t be around to see and enjoy marvelous new scientific achievements. Then with news like this, I think, “oh, what the hell!”

  2. As someone who spends a lot of time before these federal judges around the country, this is terrifying. They deal with complex and important issues that effect people’s lives every day. I don’t want this decisions made by people who lack the intellectual horsepower to grasp what they’re doing, and I don’t want decisions made based upon their driving political thesis, even if it might occasionally help a client. I want them making decisions based upon facts, rules, and law. Imagine if your physician were appointed, not based upon education, experience, or skill, but on political party, and tell me if you’d trust them to perform your next life-saving surgery. No? Then you don’t want them on the bench, either.

  3. Fire up the boards :: the Impeachment Boards. When common sense makes its inevitable return, they can be removed from the benches to which they were placed by an idiot Coach.

  4. Trump and Bannon’s assault on democracy and decency has worn me down. The past few months have taken a toll and I am so tired.

  5. Steve; having little knowledge of law and the courts, I have a question. Aren’t those lifetime appointed judges the very ones who would have to approve/appoint the Impeachment Boards and if so, will they appoint Impeachment Boards which would work against themselves and their lifetime appointments?

  6. Nancy; I am with you…totally. At this time of holiday season, not only Thanksgiving next week but upcoming numerous religious holidays, which should be a time of rejuvenation and hope, it is impossible to even relax to enjoy the holidays. I stay depressed and tired and at times find myself filled with anger and nowhere to vent it for we are unprotected at all levels, outnumbered and the inmates are running the asylum…which is what this country has become. Which of our former staunch allies can we depend on to join us if Trump and Kim Jong-Un get their much sought after nuclear war?

    Can our courts stop it before it happens or are they on the side of the war mongers who put the current Congress and Judicial system in power? Our Constitutional three branches of government were put in place so that one man in the Executive Division cannot have all the power but we now have one national power source; Trump and his puppet government.

  7. WHAT ABOUT HOPE?
    A justice system already impaired by a few centuries of white male and wealth preference is further corrupted by these appointments. Tainted judicial appointments are like repeated injections of ebola virus shot into a patient not to cure his or her pneumonia but to punish the patient for getting sick.

    Pervasive, wide-spread awareness, even suspicion of, or fake news of a corrupted judicial system, has a crushing effect on Hope. Fundamental hope, which is why I capitalized the word. Fundamental Hope, when it exists, informs citizens that when everything else seems stacked against them, at least they will get a level fighting field in the courts and with the law.

    The killing of Hope is the antithesis of President Obama’s 2008 campaign theme. When the Trump Red Tie Thugs intend to undermine Obama’s legacy, they include digging a grave large enough to bury every American value he nourished. To them, the election of a black president is all the proof needed to conclude that American values and the Constitution that established them are dead wrong. To them, the result imputes the means.

  8. Interestingly, it would only take one principled Republican to put a hold on these abominations. It appears there are none among the 52 in the Senate. That’s the true shame of all of this.

  9. We ALL need to face it…….Trump is THE anti-Christ monster. He is VIRTUALLY non-stoppable. From what I have observed, neither Christian or Jew is up to the task of stopping him.

    With all apologizes, they are both part of him.

  10. Larry, my hope is being attacked on a daily basis and I feel more like a victim each day with no way to protect myself from the attackers

    JoAnn, the number of battles that need to be fought are added to daily. It truly is exhausting to watch the greedy and evil oligarchs take over our government and country at lightening speed.

  11. “Unfortunately, a Senate devoid of Republican statesmen is all too willing to confirm these deeply problematic appointments.”

    I think you meant to write, “a Senate devoid of ethics and morals…” 😉

  12. Peggy,

    “Interestingly, it would only take one principled Republican to put a hold on these abominations. It appears there are none among the 52 in the Senate.”

    They are all afraid of the BIG BAD WOLF. Can you blame them?

    They are all IMPOTENT. They lack the NERVE to stop him. It’s as SIMPLE as that.

  13. Trump/Bannon are playing BOTH SIDES AGAINST THE MIDDLE. It’s benefiting them while destroying the fabric of the country.

    Are we all a bunch of fools or just too scared to do anything about it? Let’s don’t put all the blame on the Republicans.

  14. Larry,

    “Fundamental hope, which is why I capitalized the word. Fundamental Hope, when it exists, informs citizens that when everything else seems stacked against them, at least they will get a level fighting field in the courts and with the law.

    The killing of Hope is the antithesis of President Obama’s 2008 campaign theme.”

    What we need is REALISTIC HOPE. Have you read the works of the French philosopher, Paul Ricouer? He might be the most relevant philosopher of our times. One of his followers just won the French election. It’s hard to argue against success.

  15. These “appointments” are part and parcel with the fascist coup that is now in progress in our government. Can a true revolution be just around the corner?

  16. My advice, if we’re not willing to go ONE ON ONE with Charles Koch and his inner circle, is to quit upsetting ourselves with MASS frustration, and just give into THE ANTI-CHRIST MONSTER they have helped create.

    Enraging an un-tamed monster always makes things worse. Forgive me, I forgot who said that.

    tame (tam) adj. tam’er, tam’est [OE tam] 1. changed from a wild state and trained for human use 2. gentle; docile 3. without spirit or force; dull……….
    ~Webster’s New World Dictionary

  17. As far as I am concerned, once Gorsuch was confirmed to the stolen seat on the Court the judiciary became a joke and the rule of law is in question. If the Court is illegitimate, just like this administration, then there is no law and we begin the ride down the slippery slope to anarchy. In my opinion we are perilously close to this now.

  18. Peggy commented >> Interestingly, it would only take one principled Republican to put a hold on these abominations. It appears there are none among the 52 in the Senate. That’s the true shame of all of this. << “I certainly have no reason to disbelieve any of them. The timing is a little curious. But at the same time, I have no reason to disbelieve them.”

    That said she also plans to Vote for Roy Moore > “I believe in the Republican Party, what we stand for, and, most important, we need to have a Republican in the United States Senate to vote on things like the Supreme Court justices, other appointments the Senate has to confirm and make major decisions,” she said. “So that’s what I plan to do, vote for Republican nominee Roy Moore.” https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/alabama-governor-kay-ivey-roy-moore_us_5a0f51dee4b0dd63b1aa4447

    Per the Alabama Governor > The message is clear abusing woman is OK – the Ends (electing Roy Moore) out weighs his past conduct.
    ====================================================================

    Just to keep things even Al Franken should either resign or not run for re-election. Franken when he groped Leeann Tweeden – Franken was 55 years old.

  19. There are two fields of human endeavor in which Americans have traditionally recognized the absolute need for the primacy of fact based on solid evidence. They are law and science. Even our founders recognized that the importance of being right as much and as often as human frailty permits is paramount; the cost of being wrong is just too high not to have that evidence based standard.

    Until here and now. What Trump has sold enough of us to matter is faith based politics over-ruling evidentury based science and law.

    Of course society has been here before but many of us thought that like slavery the decision had been made to move past faith for critical decisions in favor of evidence. We gave that decision a name: The Age of Enlightenment.

    I don’t mean to offend anyone of Faith at all, we all assume what makes us comfortable about things that can’t be known, but there have been Popes for instance that were the first fascists. They maintained absolute power primarily by pomp and circumstance and their thoughts were law in all fields.

    As the Papacy got fixed the problem moved to politics and now it has moved into America.

    Almost everyday a chip is taken from Lady Liberty that in the context of all that’s going on seems annoying but is by itself, trivial. If we take too long though to come to grips with the cumulative damage there will not be enough dissension allowed to fix the damage.

  20. Vernon,

    I learned much about Paul Ricouer after meeting and later communicating, many years ago, with Bruce Prescott. I noticed on the “Oklahoma Observer”website, he eventually gave up on being a Baptist.

    That’s a shame. At one time, the Mainstream Baptists were an important countervailing force against the machinations inside the Southern Baptist Convention. Bruce was pretty much the lone voice of reason in his denomination.

    It could be that SheilaKennedy.net might end up being the last vestige of political reason. I hope [realistically] that will not be the case.

  21. After this full-frontal assault on the US Justice system, the only hope for saving this country might be the very thing that many arch-conservatives have been trying to do for some years under the leadership of Indiana’s own Senate Pro Tem David Long – to use Article V to invoke a constitutional convention. Except that the tables would have to turn locally and dramatically at the statehouse level in a lot of red and deep red states to make this happen in a way that didn’t just finish off any semblance to a democratic republic.

    But the objectives would be completely different and geared to restored Americans faith in its federal government. Among other things, it would get money out of elections once and for all and at all levels of government from President to local dog-catcher. Secondly, clean up voter-registration, voting procedures and gerrymandering. Third, eliminate life-time appointments to the bench. At every level these posts should have term limits (long but still limited). Only lawyers believe that life-time terms are sacred but they’re just one of the few and last carry-overs from the monarchy we revolted against nearly 250 yrs ago.

    Could it become a runaway convention and stalemate? Definitely a possibility but what is that risk compared the dystopian future we seem to be heading towards? If it were to break down completely, the biggest risk is the same one that faced this country in its first 100 years – that of balkanization into a half-dozen or so regional nations. And they would likely organize or retain some kind of federation for purposes of military defense, affairs of state, possibly a shared currency and federal banking system but not much more.

    In other words we’d become something between Canada and the EU. The question is whether it would survive not only external threats but that of constant social and political turmoil and even war between these regions over natural resources such as fresh water and energy.

  22. I agree that the appointment of far right judges for life who can rob us of our future as well as our present and immediate future are a threat to democracy. I also agree that Trump is nominating judges unfit to serve per the gatekeeping ABA, whose important advice he is ignoring.

    The good news, if there is any in this closed to the public exercise of appointive power with a pliant Congress, is that there will be many such judges already appointed and serving who are not hard right judges and who may keep our teetering democracy afloat until some degree of normalcy returns (if it does), so our republic may fall soon, but if so it will not be from Trump’s appointment of unqualified and ideological judges, at least not yet. It may fall from the effects of one or more of his initiatives, a Kim provocation or who knows what with all the exposures he has opened up with his diversionary tactics, big mouth and incredible ignorance.

    We have lots of exposure to economic, political and social ruin and the consequent loss of social cohesion under Trump’s tutelage, so judicial appointments can now be added to the growing list of negatives designed ultimately to destroy our democracy (or what’s left of it) in favor of some form of authoritarian control by Trump, who openly admires such dictators as Duarte and Putin, and who is dedicated to the Bannon-inspired and admittedly Leninist approach to “destruction of the administrative state,” aka democracy. We should play a page out of his “The Apprentice” days and tell him that “You’re fired,” and soon, lest our democracy evaporate and render the issue moot.

  23. Just a minor tidbit of history from “The Blue Book of the John Birch Society” by Robert Welch [founder] (Western Islands Publishers, Boston, 1959).

    Of the twenty-four members of “The Council of the John Birch Society” listed, one name stands-out:

    “Mr. Fred C. Koch. President, Rock Island Oil and Refinery Company, WICHITA, KANSAS. Strong supporter of many patriotic movements and especially of right-to-work legislation.” [We’re talking about Charles Koch’s father. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.] p. 170

    Let’s look deeper:

    “Forward to the Second Printing, December 9, 1959

    Dear Reader,

    The John Birch Society was founded at a meeting in Indianapolis, on December 9, 1958. Of the eleven men who had met there on Monday morning, December 8, for the two-day session, one had come from Oregon, one from KANSAS, one from Missouri, two from Wisconsin, one from Illinois, one from Indiana, one from Tennessee, one from Virginia, and two from Massachusetts.” p.vii

    [Interesting to note Mussolini only had an original core of 16 at the creation of his Fascism, as I remember, 3 were Jews]

    Take your pick. Who was the man from Kansas listed in the “Super 11.” There was only one other man from Kansas, listed in the “Top 24.” It could have been him, but I doubt it. I bet on Charles Koch’s father for the award.

    Charles Koch is no more of a self made man than Donald Trump. Koch has a degree from MIT, Trump has a degree from the University of Pennsylvania. As it has always been: What is the emperor without his clothes?

  24. I think the root of all this evil b.s. is that the men have been in charge. We won’t get anywhere in this republic until we women out number men in power.

  25. AgingLGirl,

    Can’t argue with you on that one.

    If I was a woman, I would start something like “Women against Koch.” Unfortunately, I’m not.

    Probably, women, at this pivotal time, will waste all their energy on a pervert like Harvey Weinstein.

  26. Hey, Marv! My money’s on Sheila. She is NOT for sale today or ever!

    We’re all weary of this farce of a presidency; however, we cannot be too tired to fight. We just cannot.

  27. AgingLGirl, you finally hit the nail on the head! Such great commentary here – frightening as all hell, but great. I’m not at all religious anymore, but I am starting to think Dump is the anti-christ. This intersection of religion, money and old, angry, entitled white men may well be, instead, the end of the road.

  28. In spite of the snark regarding the majority opinions of my journalistic friends, a revolution does not have to be violent. The current coup going on is not violent. It’s stupid, backward, evil and corrupt, but we the people are letting it happen when we don’t vote the bastards out.

    If we, as a people, don’t use the voice we’ve been given by our founders, the game is up and the evil swine like Trump will prevail.

    BTW, Marv draws heavily on the Koch history from Jane Mayer’s great book, “Dark Money”. It is a must read for understanding the true and total impetus big money is generating. It’s scary as hell, but informs us all. Yes, Mayer, Klein, Ivins, Taibbi, et. al., are “friends”, though I’ve never met them.

  29. Betty,

    You’ve always understood me best, because you have the background to do it. In order to win this game or contest, you have to understand and compete on both the intellectual and the physical sides to do it.

    You can understand that. You’ve been an educator and also a swimming coach.

    The women’s movement in the past has failed to deal with the physical side. They side step-it. They have no other choice sense they can’t match up. It’s physically impossible.

    That’s not the situation on the intellectual side. On that side they probably have the upper hand.

    That’s why the only answer, I can see, in this WAR, based on a STRATEGIC ANALOGY from the past, would be the use of a combined landing force with men LEADING the way from the beach and women taking over COMMAND after the beachhead has been secured.

    I will admit the philosophy behind this plan did cause the ONLY break in my long-time relationship with my feminist companion. However, long before passing away eight years ago, she did finally agree with the plan.

  30. Vernon,

    “BTW, Marv draws heavily on the Koch history from Jane Mayer’s great book, “Dark Money”.”

    My understanding of the Koch family comes from first hand knowledge of the racial oligarchy.

    Your “friends” like Mollie Ivins didn’t have first hand knowledge. In her autobiography she gave credit to Jim Shutze, the investigative reporter from The Dallas Times Herald, as her mentor. Although it was never disclosed, I was Jim Shutze’s “deep throat” for his award winning expose of the Dallas racist oligarchy…”Accommodation.”

    As a matter of fact, yesterday, I exposed my relationship with Jim Schutze, for the first time, with the Editor of the Guardian newspaper.

    From what I’ve heard Jane Mayer’s book is a terrific reference to the problem. However, I’ve never read her book. I don’t need to.

  31. Northern Indiana Federal bench has been packed w/ Rs for years. But most of those have been qualified and sensible – albeit partisan

  32. Vernon,

    “In spite of the SNARK [from Marv Kramer] regarding the majority opinions of my journalistic friends…”

    Definition of snark
    informal
    :an attitude or expression of mocking irreverence and sarcasm

    … no human endeavor is beyond snark these days, so lots of people enjoy hijacking a corporation’s marketing hashtag to mock the company … —Paul McFedries

    Merriam-Webster Dictionary

    Vernon, no irreverence or sarcasm meant only the TRUTH. Your friends, didn’t want to go deep enough. As I mentioned yesterday, it was going to be too expensive, whether they knew or not. Not many or willing to go “deep” for the truth.

    Jim Schutze did it with my help. I haven’t checked to see how much it costs for a copy of Jane Mayer’s book. The last time I checked with Amazon, there was only 1 copy under a $l,000.00 for Jim Schutze’s “The Accommodation.”

    Fortunately, I still have a couple of copies. The truth CAN BE worth a lot of money if you’re willing to take the chance. Schutze did. And to be honest, he also received a lot of threats because of it.

  33. “Let us then be up and doing….” We’ve already begun that by voting in key states and coming forward about social injustice on many levels. Think you’re tired now? Just slow down or stop and see what that gets ya. You won’t like it at all.

    Thanks, Marv! You’ve been right there for so much of what we’re seeing again from the past. Keep spreading the message, my friend!

  34. I think what we’re going to see is many, many cases being overturned on appeal. I’m not sure what happens to a federal judge when every single case is overturned, but there must be some sort of incompetence-impeachment process, isn’t there?

  35. But who are the judges in the appellate courts? Serious question; as I said before I know little about law and the courts, are they elected or appointed and what are their terms of service? Nothing like those on “Law And Order” where appeals are brief, rational and the good guys always win.

  36. Jonn – Federal judges at all levels are appointive. States vary; some are appointive and some are elective. Generally, I prefer the appointive over the elective. The administration of justice is or should be totally bipartisan. I have never been an elected or appointed judge, though I have served in many special and protem judge capacities and was once the juvenile judge of Marion County for two weeks along with seven juvenile judges (then called referees) who served with me when the elected judge (one Harold Fields, a Republican) went to Geneva, Switzerland, for an international welfare conference. We ran 8 courtrooms at the same time and I wouldn’t have that job if it were given me. I would have preferred being a judge in a court of general jurisdiction.

    I do not think a judge should be appointed to the bench and especially for life on ideological grounds. Historically, we have had good judges who were Democrats and Republicans, but who understood that when that robe went on politics vanished. I think there are good Republican and Democrat candidates for judgeships from which Trump could draw where ideology is not a consideration, but his abdication of his duty to carefully select has been ceded to a right wing Federal Bar Association, and such selections are accordingly flawed.

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