Over the next few years, there could be numerous vacancies on the Supreme Court. And Donald Trump is desperately trying to curry favor with the extremist wing of his party (and distract from bombshell reporting) by issuing a list of new picks for a potential Supreme Court vacancy.
As it turns out, his new additions are cut from the same cloth as his previous picks. He wants the Court to be his—but it’s ours.
Trump has already installed two Supreme Court Justices and more than 200 judges to lifetime appointments on federal district and circuit courts—many of whom have made our worst nightmares a reality.
We at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights opposed many of these judges because of their hostility to our civil and human rights and to equal justice for all of us. And now, on the bench, they have pursued Trump’s backwards agenda to dismantle the progress we have made on everything from access to health care to voting rights.
Trump’s own declarations about exactly who he would select for the Supreme Court make his agenda crystal clear: He has said that he would only select people who will curtail reproductive rights and strip health care away from millions of Americans.
And the careers of those on the shortlist remind us that their past records are a prologue. Many have led the way in reversing progress on our civil and human rights—having defended some of the most extreme voting rights restrictions, advocated for the courts to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, attacked LGBTQ people’s dignity and rights, and so much more.
The administration is now looking to secure more of the same Trumpian brand of conservatism with this updated list. Should Trump fill any Supreme Court vacancies, he would further cement an enduring legacy that will outlast his presidency for decades to come.
We will bear the brunt well into the 21st century.
Trump added the most far-right Republican senators to his shortlist, including Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)—joining the likes of Mike Lee (R-Utah) who was on his previous shortlist.
Tom Cotton shamelessly tweeted moments after this announcement: “It’s time for Roe v. Wade to go.”
Their agenda for the courts is driven by the policy change they want to permanently see but know they cannot implement legislatively.
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Other new additions, like Sarah Pitlyk, are beholden to the anti-reproductive freedom movement having defended unconstitutional abortion bans, challenged in-vitro fertilization and surrogacy, called on the Supreme Court to “revisit” Roe, and argued against contraceptive access.
Lawrence VanDyke, who Trump plucked to serve in a Nevada seat on the Ninth Circuit despite nearly no ties to the state, refused to affirm that he would be fair to LGBTQ people in his courtroom.
In fact, VanDyke’s peers raised concerns about this as reflected in the American Bar Association’s review when they rated him Not Qualified.
Another shortlister, Greg Katsas, was put on the D.C. Circuit after serving in Trump’s White House Counsel’s office. Katsas was personally involved in some of the most egregious actions by the Trump administration, including their discriminatory anti-LGBTQ positions.
Kyle Duncan was the right-wing’s go-to lawyer in cases seeking to diminish the civil and constitutional rights of the LGBTQ community. Trump appointed him to a Louisiana seat on the Fifth Circuit, and since he has become a judge, his outright refusal to treat LGBTQ litigants fairly or with dignity has been on display in his cruel decisions.
Disturbingly, many of those on the new Trump Supreme Court shortlist have advocated for efforts that restrict voting rights. For example, Katsas and Duncan defended voter suppression efforts that targeted Black and Brown voters. Their confirmations to the Supreme Court would all but ensure that the highest court in the land is weaponized as a central component of Trump’s assault on our democracy.
We know Trump also expects his judges to be loyal to him. He has promoted those, like Katsas, who have a troubling view that the president should be largely unchecked and that executive privilege should be expanded. Those listed lack the independence we expect and demand of our judges and justices.
Finally, Trump is actively campaigning to gut the Affordable Care Act while knowingly lying to the American public about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic that has already cost nearly 200,000 lives. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on November 10 to consider a Republican-led lawsuit seeking to declare the ACA unconstitutional. The stakes are incredibly high, and installing one more Trump loyalist on the Supreme Court would deny millions who depend on health care access a fair day in court.
With Trump taking us back to the despicable days when all people were not considered equal, and with our hard-fought rights and future in peril—and very much on the ballot—we must put an end to Trump’s court takeover. The Supreme Court belongs to us, not Trump.