POLITICS
02/15/2017 03:48 pm ET

Civil Rights Groups Pressure Senate To Reject Trump's Supreme Court Nominee

They condemn Judge Neil Gorsuch's stance on a long list of issues, including reproductive rights, immigration and protections for workers.

A group of civil rights organizations is pressuring senators to reject President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, writing in a letter that Judge Neil Gorsuch “lacks the impartiality and independence the American people expect and deserve.”

On Wednesday, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and more than 100 other groups sent a letter to Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairman and ranking member on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, calling on them to hold a “full and fair” hearing on Gorsuch’s nomination and then reject his confirmation.

The letter ― cosigned by organizations including the Human Rights Campaign, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Planned Parenthood, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Sierra Club ― questions Gorsuch’s record on LGBT rights, immigration, police misconduct, money in politics, protections for students with disabilities and the environment.

“If confirmed to the Supreme Court, which is closely divided on many critical issues, Judge Gorsuch would tip the balance in a direction that would undermine many of our core rights and legal protections,” the letter says.

Gorsuch, a federal judge appointed by former President George W. Bush, currently sits on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. He has undisputed credentials as a conservative judge with views described as similar to Antonin Scalia, whose death last year left a vacant seat on the Supreme Court bench.

On at least one issue, Gorsuch’s stance “is even more extreme than the views of Justice Antonin Scalia,” the civil rights groups wrote. They were criticizing his opposition to the Chevron doctrine, which says courts should defer to federal agencies as the experts when it comes to interpreting laws they enforce. 

Gorsuch’s rejection of the doctrine “betrays a general hostility to regulatory agencies and regulatory safeguards that protect our air, water, lands, and wildlife,” the letter says.

It also shows his “corporate bias,” according to the letter writers, who say that bias also appears in his history of favoring corporate defendants in cases involving discrimination and workers’ rights.  

The letter criticizes Gorsuch for siding against women’s rights  and reproductive issues. Last year, he backed Utah in a case challenging the state’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood, though the court ruled in favor of the women’s health provider.

The civil rights groups go on to argue the importance of an “independent judiciary to serve as a bulwark against the White House’s abusive and autocratic approach to governance,” citing Trump’s attack on the judge who halted his controversial immigration order blocking refugee resettlement in the U.S. and entry to travelers from several Muslim-majority countries.  

Gorsuch “would be highly unlikely to show independence from a President who shares his ideological agenda,” they wrote.

Though Gorsuch told senators in private conversations that Trump’s tweets about District Judge James Robart were “demoralizing” and “disheartening,” ― a surprising move from a Supreme Court nominee ― Democrats still are not confident that he would not be swayed by Trump.

“A truly independent judge would have the fortitude to condemn the president’s remarks, not just express disapproval, and to do it publicly,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote in a New York Times op-ed.

Gorsuch is expected to easily win the support of Senate Republicans, but will need an additional eight Democrats to receive the 60 votes required to be confirmed. (Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could change the rules to only require a simple majority but hasn’t indicated whether he’ll invoke the so-called “nuclear option.”)

After Feinstein met with Gorsuch earlier this month, she said he was impressive and “legally very smart,” but hadn’t yet decided how she’d vote.

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