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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Stand Up for Judges Who Support Justice for All

Written by Nan Aron
Published on Huffington Post

Americans want judges who believe the constitution provides for equal justice for all, not just the wealthy and powerful. President Obama has said he plans to appoint highly qualified individuals who respect the law to federal judgeships.

So that should give us common ground with all of those conservative groups who have argued for the past eight years that respect for the constitution is the most important thing when choosing judges, right?

Not so fast. They are singing a different tune, now that it’s President Obama who will make the nominations. I don’t find this surprising. The current Supreme Court has consistently ruled in favor of corporate special interests at the expense of the average, hard-working American – instead of applying the constitution to ensure equal justice for all. A president who nominates judges that enforce the laws that protect the environment, or give us access to justice when we’re harmed by dangerous drugs, is not exactly singing from their song book.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at how President Obama’s nominees to run the Justice Department are faring at the hands of those conservative groups. It started with the Holder hearings last month and is heating up as the Deputy Attorney General, the Solicitor General who argues the government’s cases before the Supreme Court, and other key officials in the Justice Department come before the Senate. Did you see the ad in Roll Call from the Judicial Confirmation Network calling for a slow-down in the confirmation process for Justice Department officials? Or the Wall Street Journal editorial calling for a slow, deliberative process for confirming the president’s nominees—the exact opposite of what they said when Bush nominees were before the Senate? And that was just yesterday.

In the past few days, we have also heard from the editorial board of The Los Angeles Times [link], echoing Senator Arlen Specter’s calls to renominate some of President Bush’s nominees—including the controversial Peter Keisler. Newsweek’s Stuart Taylor intimated that should President Obama pick a progressive for the Supreme Court, he would be turning his back on bipartisanship.

The president’s nominees to the Justice Department and later to the courts face a network of ultraconservative legal outlets (JCN, Federalist Society), corporate special interest organizations (National Association of Manufacturers), foundations (Mellon and Scaife Foundations), and elected officials all focused on one goal: maintaining a federal bench that continues to rule on behalf of the wealthy and powerful, at the expense of hard-working Americans.

If they succeed, what does that mean for the American people? It means federal courts packed with ultraconservatives who don’t put the constitution first, and who toss fair pay out the window, lift environmental protections, and give big corporations a pass when it comes to product safety. It means courtrooms where the outcome is decided by the political affiliation of the judge, not the merits of a specific case.

But this is a new day. Americans voted for change, and now it’s up to all of us to help President Obama deliver. He has nominated Justice Department officials with strong qualifications and a deep-seated respect for our core constiutional values. They should be confirmed without delay, so that they can get to work on cleaning up the huge mess that the Bush administration left behind, restore the integrity of the Justice Department, and move on to ensure justice for hard-working Americans.

President Bush’s judges have backed the corporate special interests at the expense of everybody else – and without a proper regard for the constitution. There are many vacancies on federal courts around the nation. President Obama has a unique opportunity to appoint highly qualified judges who can make the words “equal justice for all” mean something again.

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