Tag Archives: judges

Checks And Balances

There’s a reason Donald Trump has been focused on the selection and seating of highly partisan judges with little to no judicial experience. When he is sued over his autocratic actions, and the cases are heard by competent judges currently on the bench, he loses. Bigly.

The courts are part of that “checks and balances” thing the Founders were so hung up on.

The Washington Post considered Trump’s “win-loss” ratio, and Ed Brayton (Dispatches from the Culture Wars) commented on the report.

The Washington Post looks at the track record of legal challenges to Donald Trump’s policies, especially in regard to changing Obama-era regulations and issuing executive orders, and finds that he’s losing those cases in court at an astonishing, but predictable, rate.

It’s clear from the Post’s report that Trump and his cabinet of incompetents lost a number of cases simply because they ignored relevant laws prescribing the process that had to be followed.

Federal judges have ruled against the Trump administration at least 63 times over the past two years, an extraordinary record of legal defeat that has stymied large parts of the president’s agenda on the environment, immigration and other matters.

In case after case, judges have rebuked Trump officials for failing to follow the most basic rules of governance for shifting policy, including providing legitimate explanations supported by facts and, where required, public input…

“What they have consistently been doing is short-circuiting the process,” said Georgetown Law School’s William W. Buzbee, an expert on administrative law who has studied Trump’s record. In the regulatory cases, Buzbee said, “They don’t even come close” to explaining their actions, “making it very easy for the courts to reject them because they’re not doing their homework.”

Somehow, “homework” isn’t a word one associates with Trump, or with the Keystone Kop assortment of cabinet officials he has appointed. Usually, the “win rate” for government in these sorts of cases is about 70 percent. But as of mid-January of this year, a database at the Institute for Policy Integrity at the NYU Law School shows Trump’s win rate at about 6 percent.

Actually, that’s not bad for someone who clearly isn’t familiar with even 6% of the Constitution, and who has exhibited 0% knowledge of the rules and norms governing the office he holds.

Ed Brayton, as usual, cuts to the heart of the issue:

There’s a simple reason this is happening and it goes back to the old proverb that a fish rots from the head down. Trump could not possibly care any less about pesky things like legal protocols and requirements. He thinks if he just bellows out “I want this done,” it gets done. Following proper legal procedures is for the little guy, the plebes, the rabble, not for narcissistic wannabe dictators who are used to getting their way.

The only way Trump, McConnell and today’s GOP can game the system going forward is by corrupting the judiciary. And on that, their progress should terrify us all.

When Someone Tells You What They Are, Believe Them. Political Parties, Too.

The Huffington Post was only one of several outlets reporting on the confirmation of yet another unqualified (but politically and ideologically acceptable) nominee to the federal bench.

The Senate voted Tuesday to confirm one of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, Leonard Steven Grasz, despite the fact that Grasz earned an embarrassing and unanimous “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association.

Every Republican present voted to confirm Grasz, 56, to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. That includes moderates like Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), as well as retiring Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). Every Democrat opposed him in the 50-48 vote.

It is extremely rare for the Senate to confirm a judge with such an abysmal rating from the national legal organization. The ABA has reviewed more than 1,700 federal judicial nominees since 1989, and only three, including Grasz, have been deemed unanimously unqualified. The other two, both nominees of President George W. Bush, were withdrawn and replaced with other nominees after the ABA’s assessment came in.

Lest you be tempted to dismiss the ABA’s rating, the panel had interviewed more than 180 people familiar with Grasz, who had served as Nebraska’s chief deputy attorney general for 11 years and was thus well-known to practitioners in the state.

He was described by people who knew him and lawyers who’d worked with him as “gratuitously rude.” Far more concerning, a number of people reported having an “unusual fear of consequences” if they said anything negative about him because of his “deep connection” to powerful politicians in Nebraska. (Perhaps his evident petulance and thin skin are what commended him to Trump, who exhibits similar characteristics.)

So why would the GOP elevate someone who appears to be an unqualified asshole to a circuit court position requiring a modicum of tact and a judicial temperament? There are literally hundreds of highly qualified Republican lawyers–why choose someone so unfit to serve?

ABA members also raised concerns that Grasz would be “unable to separate his role as an advocate from that of a judge,” given his record on issues like LGBTQ and abortion rights. Among other things, Grasz served on a nonprofit board that backed so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ kids, and in a 1999 article argued that lower courts should be able to overrule Supreme Court decisions on abortion rights because “abortion jurisprudence is, to a significant extent, a word game.”

Putting someone on the bench who believes that a circuit court could–or should–“overrule” the Supreme Court when they issue a decision he dislikes is incomprehensible. Or should be.

In the wake of the elections in Virginia and Alabama, I’ve begun to hold out hope that Trumpism will be limited–that the 2018 elections will put adults back in charge of Congress, and that Trump/Pence will be gone once Muller completes his work. Worst case scenario, by 2020 much of the damage being done–to our position in world, to the environment, to public education, to the poor–can be undone, or at least mitigated.

But not the courts. The ideologues and incompetents being nominated and confirmed to the federal courts will be there for life, and if there are enough of them, they can change the course of American jurisprudence for a hundred years.

There are many things the Congressional GOP is doing that horrify me–passing policies that hurt the most vulnerable while enriching their donors and patrons, “culture war” tidbits they are throwing to their frightened, racist and uneducated base to keep them subdued. But subverting the rule of law by  placing zealots and know-nothings rather than principled conservatives on the federal bench ranks as the most despicable action of all.

I think it was Maya Angelou who said “When people tell you who they are, believe them.” Today’s Republican party is telling us who they are, and it isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s nauseating.