Tracking the latest developments in the fight for a fair America
On May 15, 2018, President Trump nominated Ryan Nelson to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. If confirmed, Nelson will replace Judge N. Randy Smith, who is scheduled to assume senior status on August 11, 2018.
Based on our review of Nelson’s record, Alliance for Justice opposes his nomination to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Ryan Nelson attended law school at the J. Reuben Clark Law School of Brigham Young University. While in attendance, Nelson worked as a research assistant for then-professor Thomas Lee, who currently serves on the Utah Supreme Court and is on President Trump’s Supreme Court short list. He also joined the ultraconservative Federalist Society – an outside group to which Trump has delegated important aspects of the judicial nomination process – and has been a member since that time.
On April 25, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Trump v. Hawaii, a case challenging President Trump’s third and latest ban on travel for nationals of several predominantly Muslim countries. The Court’s decision will most immediately impact the individuals who are barred indefinitely from coming to the United States, as well as their family members and extended communities here in the United States. But more broadly, the outcome in this case will have important repercussions for the ongoing meaningfulness of the First Amendment’s most basic protection against religious discrimination.
Much of the briefing and oral argument before the Supreme Court revolved around statutory questions about the President’s authority to suspend entry into the United States and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s prohibition on nationality-based discrimination in the issuance of immigrant visas. But at its core, this case is really about whether the Supreme Court will hold the President accountable for demonizing and vilifying Muslims and Islam, or whether the justices will turn a blind eye to his blatantly discriminatory rhetoric and policies. Regardless of the grounds for the decision, a ruling in favor of the government would send the distinct message that political leaders can gleefully denigrate a religion and its adherents—and then proceed to implement unjustified policies that target and disfavor that religion—without consequence. Such an outcome would have the practical impact of gutting the core of the Establishment Clause. It would send the message to plaintiffs in this litigation, and to religious minorities across the country, that the Constitution’s promise of religious freedom has lost its practical significance.
On April 10, 2018, President Trump nominated Allen Winsor to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. Winsor, a current justice on Florida’s First District Court of Appeal, previously served as Solicitor General of Florida from 2013 to 2016, under Attorney General Pam Bondi. In that capacity, he defended several troubling laws, including repeated efforts in Florida to dilute the vote of persons of color and make it harder for Floridians to vote. He also advanced efforts to erode reproductive rights and marriage equality, as well as supported questionable practices as the state carried out the death penalty.
As the Senate Judiciary Committee reviews Winsor’s controversial positions and activities during government service, it is worth noting current committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s statement in opposing Caitlin Halligan, then Solicitor General of New York, to be a judge on the D.C. Circuit: “Some of my colleagues have argued that we should not consider this aspect of [Caitlin] Halligan’s record, because at the time she was working as the Solicitor General of New York. But, no one forced Ms. Halligan to approve and sign this brief.”
Like a vast majority of Trump’s nominees, Winsor is a member of the Federalist Society.
Alliance for Justice has prepared this blog to highlight areas of Winsor’s record, based on our review thus far, in which we believe greater scrutiny by the Senate is warranted. Click here to read our opposition letter.
On April 10, 2018, President Trump nominated to the federal bench Britt Grant (40 years old) and Patrick Wyrick (37 years old). Of course the fact that the President has nominated such young and inexperienced persons is by now unremarkable. Ryan Holte was just 34 when nominated to a federal judgeship; Brett Talley, whose nomination was defeated after blog posts defending the early KKK came to light, was 36 years old. What is remarkable about Grant and Wyrick, however, is that this was not the first time they appeared on a White House list. In fact, both youngsters are on Trump’s list as possible Supreme Court nominees.
Their careers mirror each other: both graduated from law school in 2007; each spent a year clerking for federal judges, worked in private practice for less than four years, and then joined their state’s Office of the Attorney General; in 2017, Wyrick was appointed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court and Grant was appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Clearly, Grant and Wyrick are not on the President’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees because of their extensive legal and judicial experience. Seasoned legal luminaries they are not (in contrast with just one person recently considered for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, who at the time of his nomination had nearly 40 years of legal experience — nearly 20 as an appellate judge). So why are a 37 year old and a 40 year old with limited judicial experience on the short list for the Supreme Court?
The vast majority of President Trump’s nominees for lifetime federal positions raise all sorts of concerns about whether they will uphold our rights and make judgments based on evidence rather than prejudice. Michael Truncale, named to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, is on that list.
Truncale, who came in third in a 2012 Republican congressional primary in Texas, calls himself a “conservative by conviction, not by convenience.” He has made a number of noteworthy comments, from topics ranging from the judiciary, education, the Affordable Care Act, reproductive rights and immigration policy. Read more