Trump isn’t a different kind of candidate. He’s a Mitch McConnell kind of candidate. Exactly the kind of candidate you’d expect from a Republican Party whose “script” for several years has been to execute a full-scale assault on the integrity of our courts. Blockading judicial appointments so Donald Trump can fill them. Smearing and intimidating nominees who do not pledge allegiance to the financial interests of the rich and the powerful.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren should stay right where she is in the Senate. She would have less of a platform as the Vice President. Yes, VP candidates are often given the attack-dog roll, but Warren needs no loftier position for doing that. Warren's speech to the American Constitution Society’s national convention takes your breath away.
Warren's attack on Donald Trump yesterday was part of a larger indictment of the Republican attack on the legal system and the Senate's refusal to give Merrick Garland, President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, a hearing and a vote.
Four simple words are engraved above the
doors to the Supreme Court: Equal Justice Under Law. That’s supposed to be the
basic promise of our legal system: that our laws are just, and that everyone—everyone—will
be held equally accountable if they break those laws.
We haven’t always fulfilled that promise—but
it is the absolute standard to which we hold ourselves even when we fall short.
A vital part of that struggle is the fight for a truly
professional, independent, and impartial judiciary. A place governed not by
politics, not by money, not by power—but by those four
simple words: equal justice under law.
I talked pretty bluntly about how we are losing the
fight over whether our courts will remain a neutral forum, faithfully
interpreting the law and dispensing fair and impartial justice, or whether rich
and powerful interests will completely capture our judicial branch.
I talked about how year after year, for more than thirty
years, powerful interests have worked to rewrite the law and tilt the courts to
favor billionaires and giant corporations. Cases that protected giant
businesses from accountability. Cases that made it harder for individuals to
get into court. Cases that gutted longstanding laws protecting consumers from
being cheated. And cases likeCitizens United, which
unleashed an avalanche of billionaire SuperPAC dollars and secret corporate
money in a mad dash to tilt the rest of the government in favor of the wealthy.
Today, I’m here to update that warning. Because what
we’ve seen over the past three years—accelerating over the
past three months, and even the past three weeks—is alarming. Powerful
interests are now launching a full-scale assault on the integrity of the
federal judiciary and its judges.
This assault has two major elements. First, tearing down
our centuries-old process for appointing judges. Second, viciously attacking
judicial nominees, potential nominees, and even sitting federal judges, at the
first sign that they might put the rule of law above devotion to the rich and
Earlier this week,I
released a comprehensive reporton
the Republican campaign of obstruction against President Obama’s nominees. It
details how Senate Republicans have delayed or blocked votes on key nominations
throughout the entire Obama Presidency. The purpose of this obstruction is to
hold open federal positions for as long as possible. The purpose is to
hamstring the President’s ability to protect consumers and workers, to hold
large corporations accountable, and to promote equality. In other words, to undermine
the fundamental principle of Equal Justice Under Law.
The centerpiece of that strategy has been a blockade of
federal judicial appointments—and it’s much bigger than just the Supreme Court.
Judicial emergencies multiply. Cases pile up. Courts are
starved for help. And nowthe
Supreme Court of the United States sits paralyzed, unable to deal with its
most challenging cases. All because extremist Republicans who reject the
legitimacy of President Obama are determined to make certain our courts advance
only the agenda of the wealthy and the powerful.
It is outrageous—and it is up to us to
Senate Republicans, do your job. Give District Court
nominees their votes.
Do your job. Give Circuit Court nominees their votes.
Do your job. Give Merrick Garland his vote!
The nominations blockade is the first part of this
assault on the judiciary. But there is a second, even uglier line of attack—intimidation.
Justice demands a judiciary made up of independent
lawyers who can provide insight and expertise from every corner of the
profession. But Senate Republicans and their big business allies don’t like
nominees whose resumes reflect insufficient devotion to the interests of the
rich and powerful—so they smear them. Defense lawyers, public interest
attorneys—nominees with these professional experiences are
regularly slandered. Their integrity is questioned. And scores of Republicans
line up to oppose them.
During her confirmation hearing to be a District Court
judge this year,Senator
Sessions insulted Paula Xinis, a former federal public defender and civil
rights lawyer who worked on cases of police abuse. He asked if she could
“assure the police officers … that might be brought before your court that
they’ll get a fair day in court, and that your history would not impact your
decision-making.” I’ll let you guess how many times Senator Sessions has
questioned a fancy corporate defense lawyer, asking if they would assure
victims of fraud or people poisoned by toxic wastes or people injured by shoddy
products or employees fired illegally because they tried to form a union—if
they would get a fair day in court.Judge
Xinis was rated unanimously well-qualified by the American Bar Association.Yet she wasbarely
confirmed, with nearly three dozen Republican Senators voting no.
This approach is corrosive to the legal profession. It
is corrosive to our courts. It is corrosive to the rule of law. It is the
responsibility of every lawyer—no matter who their
clients are—to stand up and fight back.
The attacks around the current Supreme Court vacancy
have been even uglier. At one point, Senator John Cornyn of Texas—the
#2 Republican in the Senate—announced
that any nominee—ANY
NOMINEE—put forward by the President would be beaten like “a piñata.” And his right-wing billionaire and big business allies
have made good on that threat.
Judge Garland is not a politician. He is a judge with an
unimpeachable record of putting the law first. And for that sin, he faces a
nonstop, national campaign of slime. He faces historic disrespect from the
Republicans who control Senate. It is despicable. It must end.Wemust end it.
The goal is to tilt the game, and it’s working—86%
of President Obama’s judicial nomineeshave
worked as a corporate attorney, a prosecutor, or both, while less than 4% have
worked as lawyers at public interest organizations. Professional diversity is
missing from the federal bench—and justice suffers
But even disqualifying judges based on their
professional background isn’t enough for Donald Trump.
When that’s your business model, sooner or later you’re
probably going to run into legal trouble. And Donald Trump has run into a lot
of legal trouble. Ah, yes—Trump University,
which his own former employees refer to asone
big “fraudulent scheme.”
I taught law for more than 30 years. Ask any lawyer in
America and they’ll tell you that sounds like fraud. And that’s exactly what
Donald Trump is being sued for—fraud, and worse, for
targeting the most vulnerable people he could find, lying to them, taking all
their money and leaving them in debt.
Some of those people are fighting back. Because in
America, we have the rule of law—and that means that
no matter how rich you are, no matter how loud you are, no matter how famous
you are, if you break the law, you can be held accountable. Even when your name
is Donald Trump.
But Trump doesn’t think those rules apply to him. So at
a political rally two weeks ago, and almost daily since then, the presumptive
Republican nominee for President of the United States hassavagely
attacked Gonzalo Curiel,the
federal judge presiding over his case.
“We are in front of a very hostile
said. “Frankly, he should recuse himself. He has given us ruling after
ruling, negative, negative, negative.”
Understand what this is. Trump is criticizing Judge
Curiel forfollowing the law, instead of
bending it to suit the financial interests of one wealthy and oh-so-fragile
Like all federal judges, Judge Curiel isbound
by the federal code of judicial ethicsnot
to respond to these attacks. Trump is picking on someone who is ethically bound
not to defend himself—exactly what you’d
expect from a thin-skinned, racist bully.
Judge Curiel can’t respond—but we can. We can
tell his story.
For thirteen years, he worked as a federal prosecutor in
Southern California, fighting the Mexican drug cartels as a leader of that
region’s narcotics enforcement division. He collaborated with top Mexican
officials to disrupt the culture of corruption between the Mexican government
and the most powerful and deadly cocaine smugglers in North America.
The effort was impressive. On both sides of the border,
money launderers, street gangs, and assassins were arrested and prosecuted.
No, Donald—youshould be ashamed of
yourself. Ashamed for using the megaphone of a Presidential campaign to attack
a judge’s character and integrity simply because you think you have some
God-given right to steal people’s money and get away with it. You shame
yourself and you shame this great country.
No, Donald—whatyouare doing is a total disgrace.
Race-baiting a judge who spent years defending America from the terror of
murderers and drug traffickers simply because long ago his family came to
America from somewhere else. You, Donald Trump, are a total disgrace.
Judge Curiel is one of countless American patriots who
has spent decades quietly serving his country, sometimes at great risk to his
own life. Donald Trump is a loud, nasty, thin-skinned fraud who has never
risked anything for anyone and serves nobody but himself. And that is just one
of the many reasons why he will never be President of the United States.
And in spite of these shameful attacks, nobody doubts
that Judge Curiel will continue to preside over Trump’s case as a fair and neutral
judge. Because Judge Curiel is a lawyer with integrity—and
what lawyers with integrity do.
Judge Curiel has survived far worse than Donald Trump.
He has survived actual assassination attempts. He’ll have no problem surviving
Trump’s nasty temper tantrums.
What script is that, exactly? And where do you suppose
Donald Trump got the idea that he can personally attack judges, regardless of
the law, whenever they don’t bend to the whims of billionaires and big
Trump isn’t a different kind of candidate. He’s a Mitch
McConnell kind of candidate. Exactly the kind of candidate you’d expect from a
Republican Party whose “script” for several years has been to execute a
full-scale assault on the integrity of our courts. Blockading judicial
appointments so Donald Trump can fill them. Smearing and intimidating nominees
who do not pledge allegiance to the financial interests of the rich and the
Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnellwantDonald
Trump to appoint the next generation of judges. Theywantthose
judges to tilt the law to favor big business and billionaires like Trump. They
just want Donald to quit being so vulgar and obvious about it.
Donald Trump chose racism as his weapon, but his aim is
exactly the same as the rest of the Republicans. Pound the courts into
submission to the rich and powerful.
There have always been those with money and power who
think the rules shouldn’t apply to them. Those who would pervert our system of
government to serve their own ends. They have tried it before and they are
trying it now. All that is required for the rule of law and our independent
judiciary to collapse is for good people to stand by, and do nothing.
Now is not the time to stand by. Now is the time to
stand up. Now is the time to say no. No. Not here. Not in these United States
We are not a nation that disqualifies lawyers and judges
from public service because of race—or religion—or
gender—or because they haven’t
spent their entire careers representing the wealthy and the powerful.
We are the nation of John Adams—a
lawyer who defended the British soldiers after the Boston Massacre, and went on
to serve as President of these United States.
We are the nation of Abraham Lincoln—a
lawyer who defended accused killers, and went on to serve as President of these
We are the nation of Thurgood Marshall—a
lawyer who fought for racial equality, and went on to serve on the Supreme
Court of these United States.
We are the nation of Ruth Bader Ginsberg—a
lawyer who fought for gender equality, and went on to serve on the Supreme
Court of these United States.
That is who we are. And we will not allow a small,
insecure, thin-skinned wannabe tyrant or his allies in the Senate to destroy
the rule of law in the United States of America.
It’s time again to fight—as we have in every
generation—for those four simple words that define the promise of
our legal system. Equal justice under law.
That's the way you do it. And she just gets better at it.