2018 Death Penalty report: Saudi Arabia’s False Promise

With crown prince Mohammed bin Salman at the helm, 2018 was a deeply violent and barbaric year for Saudi Arabia, under his de facto leadership.
PhotoDeera Square is a public space located in front of the Religious Police building in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in which public executions (usually by beheading) take place. It is sometimes known as Justice Square and colloquially called Chop Chop Square. After Friday prayers, police and other officials clear the area to make way for the execution to take place. After the beheading of the condemned, the head is stitched to the body which is wrapped up and taken away for the final rites.
This year execution rates of 149 executions, shows an increase from the previous year of three executions, indicating that death penalty trends are soaring and there is no reversal of this trend in sight.
The execution rates between 2015-2018 are amongst the highest recorded in the Kingdom since the 1990s and coincide with the ascension of king Salman to the t…

Brett Kavanaugh picked for Supreme Court by President Trump

Trump nominates Kavanaugh as new Supreme Court justice
US President Donald Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, setting the stage for a bruising confirmation battle.

In a primetime announcement at the White House, Mr Trump praised his pick as a "brilliant jurist".

The nominee, a District of Columbia appeals court judge, is a former adviser to ex-President George W Bush.

The decision has far-reaching implications for America on everything from abortion to guns to immigration.

This is Mr Trump's second appointment to the highest court in the land, potentially allowing him to shape the US for a generation after he leaves office.

The president said: "Judge Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law."

Mr Trump added: "He is a brilliant jurist with a clear and effective writing style, universally regarded as one of the finest and sharpest legal minds of our time."

With reality television-style suspense, the president had kept everyone guessing up until the last moment.

The appointee would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, who announced last month that he will retire this summer.

At Monday night's announcement in the East Room, Judge Kavanaugh, 53, said: "Mr President, thank you. Throughout this process I have witnessed firsthand your appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary.

He added: "I am grateful to you and I am humbled by your confidence in me."

Who is Judge Kavanaugh?

He has served since 2006 on the influential US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and was formerly a White House aide under George W Bush.

He previously worked for Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who investigated Democratic former president Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

A Yale graduate and devout Catholic who went to a Jesuit high school, he once clerked for Justice Kennedy, the man he would replace.

Judge Kavanaugh recently voiced disagreement with a court decision allowing an undocumented teenage immigrant to have an abortion.

He wrote a Minnesota law review article in 2009 arguing that presidents should be shielded from criminal investigations and civil lawsuits while in office.

Analysts say that could have weighed in his favour with the White House, given that the Supreme Court may at some point be asked to rule on matters arising from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing Russia-related investigation.

What's at stake?

The US Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter on contentious laws and disputes between states and the federal government.

It rules on such issues as abortion, the death penalty, voter rights, immigration policy, campaign finance and racial bias in policing.

Each of the nine justices holds a lifetime appointment. Judge Kavanaugh is relatively young, meaning he could serve for decades to come.

His appointment will not change the ideological tilt of a court that already has a 5-4 conservative majority, but he could nevertheless shift the bench further right.

Justice Kennedy sometimes sided with the court's liberal justices on divisive social issues. But Judge Kavanaugh may not be so accommodating.

Neil Gorsuch, 50, who was appointed by Mr Trump last year, is already one of the court's most conservative justices.

A safe pair of hands

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

The front-runner was a front-runner for a reason.

Over the weekend, it looked as though Judge Kavanaugh's star may have been fading, that perhaps he had too-close ties to the Bush family for Mr Trump's liking. In the end, however, the safe pick won out.

He is the kind of judge a President Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney would have picked - a man with an established legal pedigree and a reputation as a reliably conservative jurist.

If the party sticks together, the president's choice will be sitting on the Supreme Court when its new term starts in October.

President Trump campaigned with a promise to conservatives that he would fill the federal courts, from the top on down, with judges to their liking.

It's a promise that has helped cement near-record levels of support for his presidency from Republican voters - and for good reason.

Mr Trump is securing a conservative judiciary for a generation.

What next?

The nominee must be confirmed by the US Senate, which the Republican president's party narrowly controls 51-49.

A nominee needs a simple majority of 51 votes to be confirmed.

With Senator John McCain battling cancer in his home state of Arizona, Republicans can currently only muster 50 votes.

Before a full vote on the chamber floor, the prospective justice will be grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee in hearings that can go on for days.

Judge Kavanaugh said he would begin meetings with senators on Tuesday.

Democrats are certain to press Mr Trump's latest nominee on the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that legalised abortion nationwide.

Conservative Christians have long vied to overturn that decision, and Mr Trump has previously said he wants "pro-life" justices opposed to abortion rights.

The White House and Republican party want the nomination in the bag before November's mid-term elections.

Source: BBC News, Staff, July 10, 2018

Where Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh stands on key issues

President Donald Trump announced on Monday his decision to nominate Brett Kavanaugh to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's decision to retire.
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump announced on Monday his decision to nominate Brett Kavanaugh to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's decision to retire.

Kavanaugh, 53, currently serves as a judge on the powerful US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Here's where he stands on some hot-button issues:


Because he was a swing-vote in favor of abortion rights, Kennedy's departure from the court has sparked alarm among abortion rights activists that Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, could be overturned. In addition, Trump has long vowed to appoint justices who would reverse Roe and allow states to determine whether abortion should be legal.

Kavanaugh has not expressed outright opposition to Roe v. Wade.

One of his opinions likely to draw scrutiny from senators is a his dissent from a ruling of the DC Circuit last October that an undocumented immigrant teen in detention was entitled to seek an abortion.

In his dissent, Kavanaugh wrote the Supreme Court has held that "the government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion." He wrote that the high court has "held that the government may further those interests so long as it does not impose an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion." He said the majority opinion was "based on a constitutional principle as novel as it is wrong: a new right for unlawful immigrant minors in US government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand." He added, however, that "all parties to this case recognize Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey as precedents we must follow."

Religious liberty

Kavanaugh's opinion in a case involving a challenge under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to the Affordable Care Act's so-called contraceptive mandate, Priests for Life v. HHS, has also drawn scrutiny. In a dissent, he expressed sympathy for the religious challengers. Making reference to the Supreme Court's ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, he wrote that "the regulations substantially burden the religious organizations' exercise of religion because the regulations require the organizations to take an action contrary to their sincere religious beliefs."

In a line that has attracted some conservative criticism, however, Kavanaugh also wrote in his dissent that Supreme Court precedent "strongly suggests that the government has a compelling interest in facilitating access to contraception for the employees of these religious organizations."

Separation of powers and executive branch authority

In his time on the DC Circuit, Kavanaugh established a reputation as a skeptic of regulatory action supported by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration.

In 2012, he argued in a dissenting opinion that the EPA "exceeded its statutory authority" in a case challenging the agency over the regulation of greenhouse gases. In a separate 2014 opinion, Kavanaugh was again critical of the EPA, writing, "In my view, it is unreasonable for EPA to exclude consideration of costs in determining whether it is 'appropriate' to impose significant new regulations on electric utilities."

In a decision suggesting broad skepticism of agency power, Kavanaugh dissented when the DC Circuit upheld the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, run by a single director, earlier this year, writing, "The independent agencies collectively constitute, in effect, a headless fourth branch of the US Government. They hold enormous power over the economic and social life of the United States. Because of their massive power and the absence of Presidential supervision and direction, independent agencies pose a significant threat to individual liberty and to the constitutional system of separation of powers and checks and balances. To mitigate the risk to individual liberty, the independent agencies historically have been headed by multiple commissioners or board members."

Separately, in a 2009 Minnesota Law Review article, he wrote that "Congress might consider a law exempting a President -- while in office -- from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel." In the same article, however, he noted, "If the President does something dastardly, the impeachment process is available."

Second Amendment

In 2011, Kavanaugh dissented from a majority opinion of the DC Circuit that upheld a ban that applied to semiautomatic rifles in the District of Columbia.

In his dissent, he wrote that the Supreme Court had previously "held that handguns -- the vast majority of which today are semi-automatic -- are constitutionally protected because they have not traditionally been banned and are in common use by law-abiding citizens."

Citing a previous high court ruling, Kavanaugh went on to say, "It follows from Heller's protection of semi-automatic handguns that semi-automatic rifles are also constitutionally protected and that DC's ban on them is unconstitutional."

Source: CNN, Clare Foran and Joan Biskupic, July 10, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh could drastically shift the court to the right. The Senate should take care.

Merrick Garland' SCOTUS seat: The Heist
Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to replace retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court comes at a tense moment. It could drastically shift the court’s tenuous ideological balance, and it comes not long after Senate Republicans disgracefully blocked President Barack Obama from making a court pick in his final year. More than ever, the court is in danger of becoming viewed as an instrument of politics rather than an independent, nonpartisan branch of government.

That is why senators must be even more exacting than usual when they evaluate Mr. Kavanaugh. They should insist on a justice who would rule with modesty and genuine independence of mind — and a willingness to resist abuses of power by this and future presidents. “I believe that an independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic,” Mr. Kavanaugh said following his introduction. He must show he means it.

Mr. Kavanaugh meets the basic qualifications for high court service. A Yale Law School graduate who clerked for Mr. Kennedy, he has served for 12 years on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The country certainly could have expected worse from President Trump. Yet Mr. Kavanaugh came from a list of potential nominees preapproved by conservative activist groups. Their goal is to tilt the court as far right as possible as quickly as possible.

Mr. Trump’s first nominee, Neil M. Gorsuch, was, in his confirmation hearings, the least forthcoming Supreme Court nominee in recent memory. Mr. Kavanaugh must do better. Fortunately, he comes with a huge record.

On hot-button questions, Mr. Kavanaugh has trended conservative on issues such as abortion, indicating a narrow view of what constitutes an undue burden on a woman’s right to end her pregnancy, and the Obamacare contraception mandate, though his take on the mandate was somewhat more conciliatory than right-wing activists would prefer. A nemesis of the administrative state, he has frequently voted against the Environmental Protection Agency, arguing that programs to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions and cross-border air pollution went further than the law allowed; in each case he took an overly narrow view of the statute. Mr. Kavanaugh seems less willing to grant executive agencies leeway in interpreting Congress’s instructions than the Supreme Court has typically shown. Senators must explore how far this philosophy extends.

They should also press Mr. Kavanaugh on when, if ever, the court should overturn precedents. Because Federalist Society officials pre-vetted potential nominees, senators should inquire about concepts the society espouses, such as originalism and textualism. What happens when the original meaning of a law is not clear, or when there was dispute about its meaning at the time it was written?

Most importantly, senators must extract an ironclad commitment that Mr. Kavanaugh will act as a check on the president. That’s a role he has not seemed comfortable playing in cases involving enemy combatants, or in a law review article suggesting that the president should not be subject to civil or criminal court proceedings while in office. There is always a danger that justices will be seen as loyal to the presidents and parties that installed them; that danger is particularly pronounced now, as Mr. Trump ignores traditional boundaries on presidential action and the Republican Party mostly enables his autocratic instincts.

Just as Democrats should not have ruled out Mr. Trump’s pick before it was announced, Republicans should not duck their responsibility to bring a critical eye to the coming confirmation process.

Source: The Washington Post, The Editorial Board, July 9, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh Is Trump’s Pick for Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Monday nominated Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a politically connected member of Washington’s conservative legal establishment, to fill Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court, setting up an epic confirmation battle and potentially cementing the court’s rightward tilt for a generation.

Presenting Judge Kavanaugh at the White House, Mr. Trump described him as “one of the finest and sharpest legal minds in our time,” and declared him a jurist who would set aside his political views and apply the Constitution “as written.”

The nomination of Judge Kavanaugh, 53, a federal appeals court judge, former aide to President George W. Bush and onetime investigator of President Bill Clinton, was not a huge surprise, given his conservative record, elite credentials and deep ties among the Republican legal groups that have advanced conservatives for the federal bench.

But his selection will galvanize Democrats and Republicans in the months before the midterm elections. Moments after the announcement, the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, declared, “I will oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have.” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who leads the barest of Republican majorities, had expressed misgivings about his path to confirmation, but said he was a “superb choice.”

Justice Kennedy, who is retiring, held the swing vote in many closely divided cases on issues like abortion, affirmative action, gay rights and the death penalty. Replacing him with a committed conservative, who could potentially serve for decades, will fundamentally alter the balance of the court and put dozens of precedents at risk.

Judge Kavanaugh’s long history of legal opinions, as well as his role in some of the fiercest partisan battles of the last two decades, will give Democrats plenty of ammunition for tough questions. Nearly 20 years ago, working for the independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, he laid out broad grounds to impeach Mr. Clinton — words that Democrats can now seize on to apply to Mr. Trump and the Russia investigation.

In choosing Judge Kavanaugh, the president opted for a battle-scarred veteran of Republican politics but also someone with close ties to the Bush family — a history that aides to Mr. Trump said he viewed as a strike against him and had to overcome.

Before serving Mr. Bush in the White House, Judge Kavanaugh worked for him in the 2000 presidential vote recount in Florida. When Mr. Bush nominated him in 2003 to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Democrats complained that he was too partisan. He survived a contentious confirmation hearing and was confirmed in 2006.

In his remarks, Judge Kavanaugh, who once clerked for Justice Kennedy, said he would “keep an open mind in every case.” But he declared that judges “must interpret the law, not make the law.”

Democrats are still bitter that Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland to fill the last Supreme Court vacancy, created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. Republicans denied Judge Garland a hearing, arguing that the right to name a justice ought to be left to Mr. Obama’s successor.

Mr. Trump chose Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who has voted much as Justice Scalia had, leaving the court’s ideological dynamic basically intact. Replacing Justice Kennedy will be far more consequential, almost certainly thrusting Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., whose voting record has been more conservative than that of Justice Kennedy, into the crucial median position on the court.

For Mr. Trump, whose presidency has been marked by personnel upheaval, an uneven legislative record and persistent questions over his ties to Russia, the nomination offers a chance for a clear victory — one that would leave a lasting imprint on one of the nation’s most cherished institutions. It also fulfills, for a second time, Mr. Trump’s promise to his political base to name conservative judges in the mold of Justice Scalia.

As he did in choosing Justice Gorsuch, Mr. Trump turned the selection process into a kind of Supreme Court sweepstakes, conducting a parade of interviews, promising a blockbuster choice and stretching out his decision-making over a weekend at his golf club in New Jersey before the prime-time appearance at the White House.

Mr. Trump did not make a final decision until the last 24 hours, but he began logistical preparations for Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment earlier in the weekend, according to a person familiar with the planning.

The president extracted a last bit of suspense from the process, appearing alone at the podium in the East Room to pay tribute to Justice Kennedy and the widow of Justice Scalia, Maureen, before announcing Judge Kavanaugh, who entered from a side door with his wife, Ashley, and daughters, Margaret and Liza.

But there was less underlying drama than Mr. Trump’s theatrical approach suggested. As he did last time, the president chose from a list of two dozen candidates, carefully curated for him by the Federalist Society, which functions as a pipeline to supply conservatives to the federal bench.

Mr. Trump narrowed the list to four finalists: In addition to Judge Kavanaugh, there were Judges Thomas M. Hardiman, Raymond M. Kethledge and Amy Coney Barrett. All four are white, middle-age conservative federal appeals court judges. Three are Catholic; only Judge Kethledge is not.

While there are ideological differences among them — Judge Barrett is an outspoken social conservative, while Judges Kavanaugh, Kethledge and Hardiman are viewed more as pro-business, law-and-order judges — all four have compiled uniformly conservative records.

One of the things that set Judge Kavanaugh apart, aides to Mr. Trump said, was his Ivy League pedigree: He is a graduate of Yale and Yale Law School. He also impressed Mr. Trump during his interview, and was enthusiastically backed by the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II.

For Democrats, the nomination sets up a political battle they are likely to lose. While Republicans hold a razor-thin margin in the Senate — Senator John McCain’s absence because of his brain cancer reduces it to 50 seats — a handful of Democrats might vote for the nominee, particularly those running for re-election in states where  Mr. Trump won in 2016 and is still popular.

Among Democrats facing that dilemma: Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. All three voted to confirm Justice Gorsuch. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat who is also up for re-election, made his intention to reject Mr. Trump’s choice clear hours before he even announced it.

“I will oppose the nomination the president will make tonight because it represents a corrupt bargain with the far right, big corporations and Washington special interests,” Mr. Casey said in a statement.

However slim his odds of success, Mr. Schumer framed the confirmation battle as a referendum on the issues most important to Democratic voters, notably health care.

“Enormously important issues hang in the balance,” he said in the Senate before the announcement. “The right of workers to organize, the pernicious influence of dark money in our policy, the right of Americans to marry whom they love, the right to vote.”

Republicans hope the appointment will mobilize their voters as well. But the choice of Judge Kavanaugh is perhaps the most challenging of the four finalists, with lawmakers warning that his voluminous record could prolong the confirmation process, even past the November election.

Mr. McConnell told the president that Judges Hardiman or Kethledge would have an easier path to confirmation. He worried about his independent-minded Kentucky colleague, Senator Rand Paul, who has bitterly criticized the foreign policy of the Bush administration and might use that as grounds to hold up Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.

But Mr. McConnell’s warning may have actually backfired, two people close to the president said, pushing Mr. Trump toward Judge Kavanaugh.

Though Mr. Trump was bothered by Judge Kavanaugh’s connection to Mr. Bush, according to people who spoke with him, he was able to get over it, in part because he believed that Judge Kavanaugh would embody the tradition of Justice Kennedy.

Judge Kavanaugh was also not the first choice of many anti-abortion and conservative religious leaders, but they quickly praised his selection, sensing they may be closer than ever to overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion.

“It is simply good news,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. “What will really matter is whether abortion law will change or not.”

Judge Kavanaugh played up his credentials as a family man on Monday, mentioning that he coached basketball for his daughters. He spoke of the influence his mother had on him, noting that she was a teacher turned lawyer and later judge in his native Maryland, who practiced her closing arguments at the family dinner table.

The White House will roll out an intensive campaign to sell the nominee to the Senate and the American public. Judge Kavanaugh will embark on a busy schedule of courtesy calls to key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and other senators. The White House named Jon Kyl, a Republican former senator from Arizona, to help shepherd the nominee during his confirmation hearing. Mr. Kyl, the White House noted, served on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmations of four of the last five Supreme Court justices.

Mr. Trump will also play a prominent role in promoting the credentials of Judge Kavanaugh, though his task will be complicated by the fact that he leaves on Tuesday for a weeklong trip to Europe for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit meeting and one-on-one meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Source: The New York Times, Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman, July 9, 2018

Trump Nominates Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court

Rainbow White House
Donald Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh, 53, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, to succeed Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

Trump made the announcement from the White House East Room shortly after 9 p.m. Eastern. He praised Kavanaugh as someone with "a proven commitment to equal justice under the law," and said that in legal circles, he is considered "a judge's judge." He has served on the D.C. Circuit Appeals Court, which hears many cases on matters related to federal regulations, since 2006.

"I'm grateful and I'm humbled by your confidence in me," Kavanaugh said to Trump. He also lauded Kennedy, saying, "Justice Kennedy devoted his career to securing liberty."

"If confirmed by the Senate, I will keep an open mind on every case," Kavanaugh pledged. He also said, "A judge must be independent and interpret the law, not make the law." He said he would interpret the U.S. Constitution and other laws as written.

Kavanaugh doesn’t appear to have much of a record on LGBT rights. But he “has a track record of siding with religious organizations over governments and other groups that challenge them, a particularly attractive trait to conservatives,” CBS News reports. He also supported exemptions from the Affordable Care Act for a religious group, “albeit not to the full extent possible,” according to the Empirical SCOTUS blog; this was in a case challenging the ACA’s mandate for insurance coverage of contraceptives. He recently dissented from a decision that allowed a minor who is an undocumented immigrant to obtain an abortion, and if he’s the nominee, that is certain to come up in his confirmation hearings.

On other issues, “he has written almost entirely in favor of big businesses, employers in employment disputes, and against defendants in criminal cases,” notes Empirical SCOTUS. On the D.C. Circuit, he has heard several cases involving federal regulator agencies, and has generally been against the expansion of regulations – a position favorable to business rather than employees or consumers. He has ruled in favor of gun rights, and as a White House aide in the George W. Bush administration, he supported the expansion of presidential power. He’s a former law clerk for Justice Kennedy, and hos 12 years on the D.C. Circuit represent extensive federal court experience. Both of those factors could work in his favor. Something that could work against him, at least with Democrats, is that in the 1990s he assisted then-independent counsel Kenneth Starr in his investigation of President Clinton.

Several LGBT rights groups immediately voiced opposition to Kavanaugh. The Human Rights Campaign called on the Senate to reject him. “In nominating Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump has followed through on his threat to nominate a justice who would undermine LGBTQ equality, women’s reproductive rights and affordable healthcare,” said HRC president Chad Griffin in an emailed statement. “Now, the Senate has a responsibility to fulfill its constitutional duty, serve as a check on this reckless president and reject Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. This nominee was hand-picked by anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice groups in an explicit effort to undermine equality — and the prospect of a Justice Kavanaugh threatens to erode our nation’s civil rights laws, block transgender troops from bravely serving this nation and allow a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people in every aspect of American life. The 2018 midterm elections just became the most consequential elections of our lifetime, and we must seize the opportunity to pull the emergency brake on this regime. We need to vote this November like our lives depend on it — because they do.”

Rachel B. Tiven, chief executive officer of Lambda Legal, also found Kavanaugh unacceptable, issuing the following statement: “Judge Kavanaugh would guarantee 40 more years of Trump’s values on the Supreme Court. Like every other judicial nominee who has a seal of approval from the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, Judge Kavanaugh shares Donald Trump’s same distorted view of the law. We have good reason to fear that Judge Kavanaugh will abuse his power on the Court to protect the wealthy and the powerful while depriving LGBT Americans of our dignity, demeaning our community, and diminishing our status as equal citizens. There is too much at stake to allow Judge Kavanaugh to sit on the Court that, over its history, has decided who can marry, who can vote, and who is equal. President Trump wants a Supreme Court justice who looks like him, acts like him, and only protects people like him. Brett Kavanaugh has argued that sitting presidents should not be subject to civil or criminal charges while in office and that presidents should be able to dismiss any lawyer 'out to get him.' Kavanaugh also thinks that the president does not need to follow the law if he thinks the law is unconstitutional. At this moment in our history, the country not only deserves but needs a judge who will be loyal first and foremost to our Constitution and the rule of law. During his last confirmation hearing, Judge Kavanaugh tried to obfuscate his involvement in the development of the Bush White House’s torture policies. We do not believe that Judge Kavanaugh can be trusted with the incredible responsibility of a seat on the Supreme Court at a time when forces are aligned to undermine marriage equality, access to abortion and the Affordable Care Act. A judge with this kind of record should not occupy a seat on the Supreme Court that has been the critical swing vote on LGBT issues, as well as abortion, healthcare, voting rights, and many other important civil rights questions, for decades to come. ... The President chose Judge Kavanaugh to gut abortion and birth control, to erase coverage for pre-existing conditions, and to undermine marriage equality. This is why Democrats must hold Senate Republicans to the ‘McConnell Standard’ and oppose any hearing or vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court until after the 2018 midterm elections. We cannot afford 40 more years of Trump values on this court.”

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, urged the Senate to carefully consider what is at stake for LGBT people and other marginalized communities, "and to ensure that any person who sits on our nation’s highest court understands the realities facing LGBT communities and others for whom our Constitution’s promise of freedom and equality is not yet fully realized. To date, there is nothing in Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s record to indicate that he understands the real-world impact of discrimination on LGBT people or the importance of construing our nation’s laws to enable them to participate fully and equally in society. The Supreme Court must be a court for all, not just for the privileged few. It is sobering that a president who has shown disregard for many of our nation’s most cherished rights and freedoms has an opportunity to appoint a second justice to the Supreme Court. This moment is a wake-up call to LGBT people and others about the critical importance of elections and the need to vote this November.”

GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders executive director Janson Wu issued a statement saying, "We urge Senators to take extremely seriously their duty to ensure a nominee is not pushed through to a seat on our nation’s highest court who does not support or cannot demonstrate through word and deed a clear dedication to upholding our constitutional guarantees of equality for all. We have severe concerns about Judge Kavanaugh’s ability to meet this standard, and reason to fear his nomination is based on predetermined ideology, not a commitment to justice," especially given that Trump has said he would appoint justices who would overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling that established abortion rights nationwide and rule against the ACA.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said, “If confirmed, Brett Kavanaugh will have the chance to codify President Trump and Vice President Pence’s dangerous anti-LGBTQ record and the agenda of anti-LGBTQ groups into law for decades to come. Like Neil Gorsuch before him, Kavanaugh is an ideologically driven pick designed to create an activist Supreme Court that will undermine rights and protections for women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and all vulnerable people. Americans do not want or need 40 more years of Trump’s values.”

And Transgender Law Center deputy director Isa Noyola called Kavanaugh “divisive, radical conservative whose appointment would pose a devastating threat to the rights and well-being of transgender people nationwide. We need a Supreme Court that will uphold the values of freedom, fairness, and equal protection enshrined in our Constitution, not green-light discrimination against transgender people, communities of color, immigrants, people with disabilities, and others under attack by this administration. The person who fills this seat will likely have a deciding vote on issues like health care, reproductive justice, and transgender people’s freedom to be our authentic selves and participate in public life, so our lives hang in the balance. Transgender Law Center demands that the Senate reject Kavanaugh and we urge our community to call their Senators to oppose the nomination."

Several progressive activists on a conference call after the nomination was announced warned about not only Kavanaugh's implications for LGBT and reproductive rights but his expansionist view of presidential power, at a time when the president is under investigation. "He has a clear record that he believes the president is above the law," said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The evidence is in thousands of documents detailing his work with the George W. Bush administration, and these documents must be released and examined, Hill said. Combine that with the fact that the nomination process was outsourced to the right-wing Federalist Society, which prepared a list of nominees for Trump, and "the taint surrounding this nomination could not be more noxious," she said. There should be no Senate vote on Kavanaugh until Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into questions surrounding the Trump presidential campaign and Russian interference in the election is complete, she added.

Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, agreed the selection process was tainted. She also said Kavanaugh's name was added to the list of nominees after his dissent from the ruling allowing the undocumented minor to access abortion services. "Too much really is at stake for the Senate to allow this nomination to go through," she said.

As to whether the Senate can be persuaded to reject Kavanaugh, several of the activists on the call said they are seeking to mobilize voters nationwide to get in touch with their senators and urge them to stand against the nominee and for reproductive rights, LGBT rights, voting rights, and more. They also noted that some far-right nominees have been blocked previously, such as Robert Bork in 1987 — and after the Senate voted against confirming him (and a subsequent nominee withdrew), the man who was eventually nominated by President Reagan and confirmed to the court was none other than Anthony Kennedy.

A rejection of Kavanaugh doesn't necessarily mean Trump will nominate someone equally bad, added Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign. When nominees are voted down, she said, presidents usually have to come back with "a more reasonable choice."

She further noted the plethora of LGBT rights questions that may come before the Supreme Court in the near future — whether existing civil rights law bans anti-LGBT discrimination, whether people with anti-LGBT religious beliefs have a legal right to discriminate, and whether transgender people have the right to serve in the military. "We don't need to guess where Brett Kavanaugh will stand on these issues," she said.

Source: The Advocate, Trudy Ring, July 9, 2018

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