Washington, D.C., October 19, 2017 – Alliance for Justice today released its comprehensive report on the record of Mark Norris, President Trump’s nominee for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. AFJ President Nan Aron released the following statement:
“Mark Norris has one of the most frightening and offensive records we’ve seen thus far among Trump judicial nominees, and that is saying a lot. As a Tennessee politician he has insulted refugees and Muslims, pushed for legislation to make it easier for businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ workers, advanced voter ID measures that were seen as encouraging racial profiling, attempted to virtually ban abortion in Tennessee, and in general systematically worked to deprive millions of Tennesseans of their rights. A number of his actions have been outright unconstitutional and rejected by courts. This is an individual who has absolutely no business serving on the federal bench.”
Among other things, the AFJ report notes:
- Norris supported legislation making it more difficult for legal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, opposed bipartisan legislation to better enable DACA students to attend college, and was instrumental in passing a state law criminalizing undocumented immigrants in Tennessee, despite the fact that courts have struck down similar measures as encroaching on federal immigration authority.
- Norris has made ignorant and offensive comments about Muslims, suggesting that being Muslim is synonymous with being a terrorist.
- Norris filed a lawsuit trying to block the federal government from settling refugees in Tennessee, which even the state’s Republican Attorney General and Jeff Sessions’s Justice Department said was baseless.
- Norris was an ardent supporter of a strict voter ID law, which took effect in 2012. The law made it more difficult for African Americans, the elderly and students to vote. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the law contributed to a drop in turnout of between 2.2 and 3.2 percent. He then pushed an amendment to make the law even stricter by allowing election officials to require proof of citizenship, which opponents said would result in racial profiling.
- Norris supported state legislation that directly conflicted with the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. As one supporter of the bill noted, the legislation was passed to “compel courts to side with late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his dissent.” Norris also took unprecedented steps, contrary to the advice from the Republican state attorney general, to try to block a state judge from properly applying
- Norris supported legislation that prohibits cities from protecting gay and lesbian Tennesseans from being discriminated against based on their sexual orientation.
- Norris pushed legislation that has made it far harder to pursue workers’ compensation claims in Tennessee, among other things barring the cases from trial courts. He also advanced legislation that overturned living wage laws in Memphis and Shelby County.
- Norris has supported numerous measures to curtail reproductive rights in Tennessee, measures that conflicted with court decisions. Most recently, he supported the “Tennessee Infants Protection Act,” which requires a doctor to test for the viability and gestational age of the fetus, bans abortion after 20 weeks, and provides that a doctor violating the law could face Class C felony charges. Tennessee’s Republican state attorney general has noted that “the new Act [is] constitutionally suspect.”
- Norris was instrumental in weakening Memphis schools, attended largely by African-American children. He authored legislation that allowed wealthy suburban school districts to withdraw from the Shelby County school district, which so devastated the district’s funding scheme that Memphis urban schools were forced to cut millions from their budgets.