Business & Practice

New Project Would Help Dem President Pick Judges in 2021

June 10, 2019, 8:33 PM

Progressives are working on potential nominees for judicial vacancies if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2020.

Alliance for Justice’s Building the Bench project is “designed to get a leg up on the process so that we’re ready with names” for senators and the new president by the time he or she would take office, AFJ founder and president Nan Aron said in an interview.

The project aims to counter President Donald Trump’s efforts to reshape the federal judiciary. He’s appointed more than 100 judges to lifetime positions, including two Supreme Court justices and dozens of district and circuit court appointments.

Aron said she expects a number of judges eligible for senior status to either do that and step away from a full schedule or retire in 2021, adding to any vacancies.

Trump has had the benefit of a large number of vacancies and a Republican-controlled Senate to push through a record number of nominees so far. If that majority holds, it’s not known now how the Senate would react to Democratic judicial selections. Republicans blocked a number of Barack Obama’s picks, including Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

The project is a group effort.

Alliance for Justice will work with progressive organizations including Planned Parenthood, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, People For the American Way, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Aron said.

The project will complement the American Constitution Society’s similar “pipeline project” for progressive judge candidates, Aron said.

Democratic senators including Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island have criticized the Trump administration for appointing conservative judges, decrying the influence of conservative groups like the Federalist Society on the nominations process.

“Senate Democrats are incredibly aware of the current harm being done by Trump-nominated judges and have indicated to us that they very much want individuals nominated who are committed to justice,” both social and economic, Aron said.

Building the Bench is a broad-based effort that has a “much more open, transparent, and democratic process than exists on the far right,” Aron said.

Mike Davis, who runs the Article III Project launched to support Trump judicial nominees, disagreed.

Davis pointed to the progressive project’s decision not to make the names of candidates public.

Why “are they scared to tell us who is on their secret list of potential judges?” Davis, a former top Judiciary Committee nominations counsel asked in a tweet.

Aron said that her organization has been engaged in identifying and recruiting judicial candidates “for decades,” and has always sought to maintain their confidentiality.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick L. Gregory in Washington at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com; Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com

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