In 2017, President Trump nominated Justice David Stras of the Minnesota Supreme Court to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The process for selecting Justice Stras was deeply problematic. In May 2016, Donald Trump as a presidential candidate announced a list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees, which included Stras. Trump promised that his nominee or nominees to the Supreme Court would “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade. Not only was the process leading to Stras’s nomination concerning, but Stras’s record is also deeply troubling. Throughout his career, Stras has repeatedly showcased his far-right leanings. He has praised Justices Clarence Thomas (for whom he clerked), Samuel Alito, and Antonin Scalia, and even wrote a law review article lauding Supreme Court Justice Pierce Butler, who was known as one of the “Four Horsemen” for striking down New Deal laws and who was so extreme he thought Social Security was unconstitutional. As a state Supreme Court justice, Stras ruled against government transparency, ruled to limit the rights of children with disabilities, and women, and demonstrated that he is not a vigilant protector of voting rights.
There are also serious questions as to his potential partisan biases. Stras wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the Republican governor of Minnesota, who later appointed him to the state supreme court, arguing for tremendously expansive power for the chief executive to unilaterally spend less money than the Democratic-controlled legislature appropriated. As a Supreme Court Justice, he then sided with the Republican-controlled legislature in a dispute with the Democratic secretary of state, putting aside his purported commitment to strict textualism to ignore a statute that explicitly gave the secretary of state the authority to set titles for ballot measures. And, he again sided with the Republican legislature in its effort to put on the ballot a measure to make it more difficult for minorities and the elderly to vote, in language that was “phrased to actively deceive and mislead.”
Stras’s confirmation has made a far-right court even more ultraconservative. In Telescope Media Group v. Lucero, Stras created a religious exemption from state anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people, allowing a video production business to refuse to produce wedding videos for same-sex couples. He also cast the deciding vote that a woman could be charged with manslaughter for using drugs while she was pregnant, which contributed to the death of her newborn child. In another terrible case for reproductive rights, Stras ruled that a Missouri law requiring physicians to give patients a pro-life booklet and perform an ultrasound before an abortion does not violate the First Amendment.
The Alliance for Justice strongly opposes the consideration of David Stras for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.