Donald Trump

A legal watchdog group is calling on the Trump administration to withdraw its nominee for a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The Alliance for Justice contends that Amy Coney Barrett, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, is unsuitable for the bench due to her belief that the Bible can precede U.S. law.

Barrett has never held a judicial position and has very little litigation experience.

“Amy Coney Barrett is a judicial nominee the likes of which we have rarely seen: a person who believes and has stated that judges can and should put their personal beliefs ahead of the law and Constitution when carrying out their duties, AFJ president Nan Aron said in a prepared statement. “Specifically, Barrett has written that judges should put their religious faith ahead of the law (emphasis by AFJ) in certain cases. She also has written that judges should not have to abide by precedent if they disagree with how past cases were decided. These views are so contrary to our system of democracy and justice that, in our view, they clearly disqualify her for the federal bench.”

For instance, Barrett has made “incredibly troubling remarks about when there a conflict between her religious beliefs and the law, the law comes second,” said AFJ legal director Dan Goldberg “She has questioned Roe v Wade, and she has said that legal precedent is irrelevant.”

Indeed, Barrett criticized Justice William Brennan for putting the Constitution above his Catholic faith. In a legal article titled “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases,” she condemned Brennan for writing, “There isn’t any obligation of our faith superior” to that (judicial) oath.

On the contrary, Barrett wrote: “We do not defend this position as the proper response for a Catholic judge to take with respect to abortion or the death penalty.”

Her critique is tantamount to relegating the Constitution as secondary to the Vatican’s authority for Roman Catholic judges

AFJ is a national association of over 100 organizations committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society, Goldberg said. AFJ conducts extensive research on judicial nominees as part of its effort to protect hard-won legal gains in such areas as environmental sustainability and civil rights for women, minorities and LGBT citizens.

AFJ contends that Barrett is not an outlier but rather a perfect fit for Trump’s emerging mold for the federal judiciary — “ideologically ultraconservative; hostile to environmental protection and the rights of workers, people of color, LGBTQ Americans, and women,” the organization said.

Growing partisanship

The Seventh Circuit, which is known in legal circles as a moderate court, has three vacancies on its 11-member panel. Goldberg said the vacancies reflect Republicans’ success at delivering on their vow to halt as many of former President Barack Obama’s nominees as possible.

The Wisconsin judicial position has been vacant longer than any other in the nation.

The Trump administration appears to be going in an even more partisan direction on judicial selections.

“There’s been a longstanding bipartisan commission that makes (judicial) recommendations to the senators, who then make recommendations to the president,” Goldberg said. Wisconsin Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson forged a new bipartisan agreement over filling major vacancies for federal judge and U.S. Attorney earlier this year.

But there is a question of whether the (Trump) White House will bypass that bipartisan commission, he added.

“Trump’s nominees are not run-of-the-mill nominees,” Goldberg warned. “Many of them hold radical point of views, and many of them would not be nominated in a normal administration or during normal times.”

Ninety-nine percent of federal cases don’t make it to the Supreme Court, which hears only about 80 cases per year. “So for the millions of people in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, the last word on everything from environmental to labor laws is the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals,” Goldberg said. “At question here is a lifelong seat that will influence people and their children for the next generation.”


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