On behalf of Alliance for Justice, a national association representing 130 groups committed to justice and civil rights, I write to oppose the confirmation of Allen Winsor to the United States District Court of the Northern District of Florida.
Winsor served as Solicitor General of Florida under Governor Rick Scott from 2013 to 2016. Both in his personal capacity and as solicitor general, Winsor worked to undermine critical rights for millions of Floridians. If Winsor is confirmed as a federal judge, his troubling record demonstrates that he will not properly protect and enforce rights and legal protections for all persons, including persons of color, women, LGBTQ Americans and workers.
For example, Winsor has fought to make it harder for persons of color to vote and to dilute the impact of those votes. Disturbingly, Winsor himself admitted his role in what he himself called the “cynical” “strategy of designing ‘blacker’ Democratic districts and ‘whiter’ Republican ones during reapportionment.” Florida Republicans, he wrote, “saw that through the process of creating majority-minority districts, African-Americans would be aggregated, even packed, into districts.” He also defended Florida’s extreme voter registration laws against challenges from the NAACP of Florida and other Floridians that the Brennan Center found delayed or denied registration, due to bureaucratic mistakes, to more than 76,000 Florida citizens and forced the League of Women Voters, among other groups, to shut down their voter registration program in Florida.
Winsor also supported questionable practices as the state carried out the death penalty, including defending Florida’s capital sentencing system that allowed a judge, rather than a jury, to make the critical findings necessary to impose the death penalty. This permitted a judge to overrule a jury recommendation in order to impose a death sentence. The Supreme Court, in an 8-1 ruling, found this unconstitutional. He also supported Florida’s efforts to make it easier to execute defendants with an intellectual disability, a practice the Supreme Court also found unconstitutional.
He has advanced efforts to erode a range of other rights: reproductive rights, including access to contraceptives; marriage equality; and efforts aimed at sustaining a clean and safe environment. Winsor also defended a Florida law that required suspicionless drug tests for applicants seeking Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits that was found unconstitutional.
As the Senate Judiciary Committee reviews the troubling positions Winsor took in the Attorney General’s office, it’s important to note that Senate Republicans have previously articulated that legal work done in an official government capacity is entirely subject to scrutiny as part of the judicial nomination process. As now-Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said 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.”
Likewise, as Sen. Ted Cruz stated in May 2018, opposing Mark Bennett’s nomination to the Ninth Circuit based on his work as Hawaii Attorney General, “[Bennett’s] record as Attorney General of Hawaii, I believe, represents an advocacy position that is extreme and inconsistent with fidelity to law.”
As detailed more fully in our blog on his nomination, Winsor’s record in the Attorney General’s office represents an “advocacy position that is extreme.” We ask the Judiciary Committee to oppose Allen Winsor for the Northern District of Florida.