WASHINGTON, D.C., August 28, 2017 – Alliance for Justice today released a report on the record of David Stras, a Minnesota state Supreme Court Justice whom President Trump has nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. AFJ President Nan Aron released the following statement:
“David Stras’s nomination for a lifetime seat on the federal bench is problematic on several levels, and does not merit the support of Senators Klobuchar and Franken. Stras’s resume includes conventional credentials and qualifications, but this has nothing to do with a person’s real fitness for a lifetime seat on the federal bench. Stras’s record raises serious concerns about his commitment to upholding critical Constitutional rights for all Americans, most notably voting rights and the rights of persons with disabilities.”
Among other findings, the AFJ report notes:
- Stras was nominated without the customary consultation with either of his home-state senators. As a result, neither had the opportunity to provide meaningful input on a more appropriate choice for the seat.
- Stras harshly disparaged U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, describing her testimony in confirmation hearings as “stilted,” “wooden,” uninspiring” and “misleading.” He stated his concurrence with other Federalist Society speakers who called the hearing a “disgrace” and Sotomayor a “dull mediocrity.” During the Obama administration, Republican lawmakers vehemently criticized a judicial nominee, Goodwin Liu, and questioned his fitness for the bench, after he expressed disagreement with Justice Samuel Alito’s views – in far less insulting terms.
- Stras twice joined rulings to uphold a proposed constitutional amendment that would have created a Voter ID law for Minnesota, in the face of legal actions challenging misleading language in both the title and text of the ballot question that asked voters to approve the amendment. The Voter ID amendment ultimately failed at the ballot box.
- Stras ruled to limit state assistance to a nine-year-old boy with severe disabilities, and sided with an insurance company over an injured child who was involved in a tragic school bus accident resulting in multiple deaths and injuries.
- Stras has gone out of his way to praise far-right Supreme Court justices including Pierce Butler, one of the “Four Horsemen” known for striking down New Deal laws and opposing minimum wage laws, who was also one of just two justices who would have struck down Social Security.
- Stras has written that Supreme Court decisions in the areas of school integration, LGBTQ rights and abortion rights represent Court “ventures into contentious areas of social policy” rather than milestones in advancing critical Constitutional rights.
- Stras would have prevented a police officer from suing the City of Minneapolis for age discrimination because the statute of limitations to sue had run out while the City took more than a year to investigate the officer’s original complaint.
- Stras ruled that trial judges didn’t have the right in a rape case to allow expert testimony that went against the defendant’s claim of consensual sex. The experts had testified that a lack of detectable injuries, and a delay in reporting, are common in rape cases.
- Stras has taken actions that raise questions of partisan and political bias. He was a strong advocate for Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty’s claim of expansive executive authority in a budget case with “highly partisan and political implications,” leading to criticism that he was subsequently appointed to the state Supreme Court because of his defense of Governor Pawlenty. Once on the Minnesota Supreme Court, in two high profile cases Stras sided with Republican lawmakers in their desire to make it more difficult for people of color to vote in Minnesota and to enact limits on same-sex marriage in the state.
Read the full report here.