On March 30, 2020, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Cory Wilson to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
President Trump has nominated Cory Wilson to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. Like many of Trump’s nominees to the federal bench, Wilson is an ideologue committed to using the power of the judiciary to implement ultraconservative policies, not to be a neutral, unbiased jurist. Those who enter his courtroom will have significant reason to doubt Wilson’s impartiality or dispassionate application of facts to law. Alliance for Justice strongly opposes his confirmation.
For fewer than nine months, Wilson has served as a state court judge in Mississippi. Before that, he served in the Mississippi House of Representatives and various government, legal, and academic jobs. Wilson’s record as a legislator, his prolific presence on social media, and his op-ed writings, paint a picture of a deeply partisan political actor. In fact, much of his record consists of dutifully parroting the right-wing media’s talking points of the day. He lamented the imagined “War on Christmas,” hammered the Obama Administration for investing in the solar panel company Solyndra, and repeated the “Crooked Hillary” nickname.
Wilson has not hesitated to make broad, insulting generalizations about those who disagree with him politically, showing a lack of respect for his opponents and a narrow mind about the issues he is likely to confront as a federal judge. For example, in an op-ed, he claimed that his wife’s parameters for their Thanksgiving location were “no state that voted Democrat.” He said that an “intellectually honest Democrat” was a “rare sighting” and “exotic creature.”
He repeatedly demeaned President Obama, who he referred to as “King Barack” and the “Anointed One.” He attacked Obama for playing golf (there is no similar criticism of President Trump’s far-more prolific golf outings), labeled Obama a “radical leftist,” “shrill, dishonest, and intellectually bankrupt,” and accused Obama of running the “most paranoid and politicized White House since Nixon’s.” He said those who support Obama were drinking “Kool-Aid” – which would include over 528,000 Mississippians in 2012. He described taking “an old-fashioned great American road trip,” before sniping, “[b]efore the Obama EPA makes those illegal.” He bemoaned that “Success is the root of all evil. Every kid gets a trophy. And the favored kids get a green-energy grant/Obamacare waiver/union payoff.”
Wilson peddled right-wing talking points about Hilary Clinton email server and the Clinton Foundation. He called her “criminal and clueless,” pondered whether she is “felony dumb or willfully ignorant,” and accused her of destroying documents under subpoena, a charge which the FBI found no evidence to support. Clinton hasn’t been his only target. He also publicly called Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “claptrap.”
These kinds of comments led Senator Mitt Romney to vote against another Trump nominee Michael Truncale for the Eastern District of Texas. After Truncale’s similar statements about President Obama, calling him “un-American,” came to light, Senator Romney stated, “He made particularly disparaging comments about President Obama… I just couldn’t subscribe to that in a federal judge.” Senator Romney was absolutely correct – statements like these are unbecoming of a federal judge and should be disqualifying.
Wilson has also ruthlessly attacked the press with comments that undermine his ability to properly protect the First Amendment. He asserted, “The ‘media’ are now so slanted as to be dangerously unreliable.” “The legacy media have largely abdicated their vital function of speaking truth to power. Democrats get a free pass; Republicans get ‘accountability’; Tea Partiers get mocked.” He wrote, “The mainstream media seem to be actively rigging the 2012 election.” “Sort of like President Obama’s miserable record in office, the media’s heavy left slant has now been so frequently pointed out, with clear evidence, that it becomes background noise.”
It is not just his temperament, however, that raises serious concerns. As is clear from his record, he intends to use the courts to advance a dangerous agenda.
President Trump explicitly said he would nominate judges who are hostile to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and who “will do the right thing unlike Bush’s appointee John Roberts on Obamacare.” Wilson meets that test. If he could, evidence suggests that he would eliminate protections for 130 million people with preexisting conditions and take away health insurance from 19 million Americans.
- He called the ACA “illegitimate” and “perverse” because it passed without Republican votes. By this logic, the Republican giveaway to the wealthiest Americans (the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017) was also illegitimate, as it passed on a party-line vote without any support from Democrats.
- Wilson also said the Supreme Court should invalidate the ACA: “For the sake of the Constitution, I hope the Court strikes down the law and reinvigorates some semblance of the limited government the Founders intended.”
- He called the ACA “big intrusive government,” and said, “Obamacare is less about healthcare than it is about redistribution of wealth and power.” In fact, the ACA insured over 20 million Americans, cutting America’s uninsured population in half.
- Wilson opposed the expansion of Medicaid in Mississippi, calling it the “ever-expanding welfare state.” This refusal to expand Medicaid has been disastrous, perhaps even deadly in its failure to cover the roughly 100,000 Mississippians who would have qualified for coverage under the proposed expansion.
- Wilson supports banning embryonic stem cell research, critical research used to discover new treatments for a range of life-threatening diseases.
President Trump made clear that he will only nominate judges who pass his litmus test of overturning Roe v. Wade. Trump said overturning Roe “will happen automatically . . . because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.” Wilson, who called the “war on women” “certainly phony,” meets that test as well.
- Wilson bemoaned that “[f]orty years on, we still live under Roe v. Wade, the result of a liberal activist court.” He “support[s] the complete and immediate reversal of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton”
- As a legislator, Wilson voted for HB 732, to prohibit abortions after a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus. This can be as early as six weeks, before most individuals even realize they are pregnant. He also supported a 15-week abortion ban.
- As a legislator, he voted to defund Planned Parenthood.
- Wilson supports requiring that any “mother” considering an abortion, must first be provided with information about a fetus’ capacity to feel pain.
- Wilson opposes marriage equality. He said that “gay marriage is a pander to liberal interest groups and an attempt to cast Republicans as intolerant, uncaring and even bigoted.” He criticized the media for “fawning media praise” on “Obama’s enlightened ‘evolution’ toward gay marriage,” while “merely pay[ing] lip service to the conviction held by many that homosexual marriage is wrong, or at least a marked departure from a few thousand years of social order.”
- He wrote that “[p]rivate citizens who dare oppose marriage ‘equality’ (read: full sanction of homosexual marriage) will now be bashed, banned, and bankrupted, simply for expressing their views.”
- As a legislator, Wilson voted to allow businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ persons and individuals who have sex outside of marriage. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi later enjoined the law, before the Fifth Circuit ultimately reversed on standing grounds. Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that, “[HB 1523] creates a vehicle for state-sanctioned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” It is disturbing that Wilson supported such a law to undermine the rights of so many Mississippians.
- Mississippi has a long-documented history of voter suppression and intimidation. Yet, Wilson criticized the Justice Department for sending election observers to the state. He suggested that these election observers instead focus on “voter fraud,” an incredibly rare phenomenon more often used as an excuse to implement restrictive laws that prevent young people, tribal communities, and people of color from voting.
- He is a strong supporter of voter ID laws and purges from voter rolls, both practices which have resulted in thousands of voters losing their rights.
- In an NRA questionnaire, Wilson indicated that he would be against “any additional restrictive state legislation regulating firearms,” and that he believes gun laws should be less restrictive in Mississippi, even though it already has the most permissive gun laws in the country.
- As a legislator, he supported authorizing concealed carry on any public property. He also voted to authorize individuals to carry firearms in churches and places of worship.