Whoever Trump appoints will be the worst justice ever
by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
So far, Donald Trump has interviewed seven potential US Supreme Court nominees - Amy Coney Barrett, Raymond Kethledge, Brett Kavanaugh, Thomas Hardiman, Amul Thapar, Joan Larsen, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).
He has promised to decide on a nominee by Monday, July 9, but whichever hopeful he chooses is likely to be the worst Supreme Court Justice ever.
Amy Coney Barrett
The supposed frontrunner at this point, Amy Coney Barrett, has only a slim judicial record, having served on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals only since November 2 last year. She is mainly known - and loved by the right wing - for her membership in a sketchy, cult-like Christian charismatic group called People of Praise (POP).
Although Barrett is a Roman Catholic, People of Praise is not one of the Catholic Charismatic Revival groups that have received qualified support from several popes. Barrett's group is a nondenominational organization heavily influenced by Pentecostal beliefs, like faith healing and speaking in tongues.
And although Barrett believes in traditional Catholic teachings about human sexuality - it's a sin unless you were married in church to a spouse of the opposite sex and you intend to reproduce - People of Praise has little in common with Traditionalist Catholicism. Unlike Barrett's group, Catholic Traditionalism emphasizes ritual - the Latin Mass, fancy vestments, gold crosses, an ornate altar instead of a simple Communion Table, the priest standing with his back to the congregation instead of facing them.
Barrett's group is a so-called "covenant community," meaning that recruits are urged to sign what they believe to be a divine contract swearing to stay with the group eternally. The objective, one former member said in a blog post, is to build 200 "cities of God" populated by members of their movement.
"I was a member of what the group calls the campus division - a section of the POP that is composed of mostly, but not exclusively, college students," the former member said.
"The campus division carries out evangelism and the city-building work of the POP. That's right, city-building. [People of Praise] believes the Lord Jesus Christ has called the community to build 200 cities and recruit 200,000 members in the next 40 years."
Another former People of Praise member, Notre Dame philosophy professor Adrian J. Reimers, said that the social structures promoted by the group are deeply discriminatory against women.
He explained that the group assigns "a personal head to each member, except married women, who are pastored or 'headed' by their husbands&As 'head' of his wife, the husband is regarded as her pastor."
This, Reimers says, "subverts the basic equality that exists between husband and wife." He noted that the husband has to answer to his own "head" and what people tell the head is not confidential.
"These pastoral systems are not harmless," he concluded. "Growing evidence, along with a proper understanding of their dynamics, suggests that these systems cripple community members psychologically, reducing them to fear and bondage rather than liberating them for the authentic freedom of sons and daughters of God."
Other views held by Barrett's group are uncompromising rejection of both abortion and contraceptives and, of course, of marriage equality and legal protections for LGBT folks.
Unlike Barrett, Raymond Kethledge does have an extensive judicial record - all of it bad - as a Justice of the 6th Circuit Court.
In 2012, Kethledge wrote the majority opinion in Sierra Club v. Korleski, finding that private individuals may not sue states for failing to perform their regulatory duties established by the federal Clean Air Act, is spite of the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency said individuals had that right.
In Bailey v. Callaghan, Kethledge, again writing the majority opinion for the 6th Circuit, said that teachers unions may not use a dues check-off system to deduct union dues from members' pay checks automatically.
In 2013, in John B. v. Emkes, an opinion written by Kethledge, made it more difficult for courts to oversee state Medicaid programs to ensure that they comply with federal laws.
In EEOC v. Kaplan Higher Education Corp (2014), Kethledge again wrote the majority opinion for the 6th Circuit, overturning an EEOC ruling that an employer's policy of running credit checks on job applicants unfairly excluded African-American applicants.
Brett Kavanaugh also has a substantial judicial record, although he is noted more for his law review articles and his dissents than his majority opinions.
In 2009, Kavanaugh wrote an article for the Minnesota Law Review arguing that US presidents should be exempt from "time-consuming and distracting" lawsuits and investigations, which "would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national security crisis." This view is notable in light of Donald Trump's legal problems.
Kavanaugh wrote a dissent in Sissel v. US Department of Health and Human Services (2014), a serious legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare). Although a three-judge panel found that the ACA is constitutional, Kavanaugh wanted the entire DC Circuit Court to rehear the case.
In EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, L.P. (2014), however, Kavanaugh was against a rehearing by the whole circuit court that would have led to the court affirming Clean Air Act environmental protections.
In the one case in which Kavanaugh wrote an important majority opinion, he ruled that Osama bin Laden's press agent, Ali al-Bahlul, could be held for war crimes even though the particular acts he was charged with are not defined as war crimes in either US or international law.
Thomas Hardiman is perhaps best known for having been a Supreme Court "finalist" before - last year, in fact, when he was being considered for the seat vacated by Antonin Scalia. That nomination eventually went to Neil Gorsuch.
As a justice of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, Hardiman established a record of uniform hostility to the rights of prisoners.
In United States v. Fisher (2007), Hardiman ruled that a judge could use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard - instead of "beyond reasonable doubt" - when extending a prison sentence. In United States v. Abbott (2009), Hardiman held that judges may impose as many "mandatory minimum" sentences as they wished, so that a prisoner's time in custody could be extended almost without limits.
In Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders (2010), Hardiman ruled that universal prison strip searches were not "unreasonable" and therefore not in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
In Barkes v. First Correctional Medical, Inc. (2014), Hardiman dissented from a ruling that state prison officials could be sued for failing to provide adequate suicide prevention protocols after a mentally ill inmate committed suicide.
Amul Thapar is notable for one case he presided over as a federal district court judge.
In 2013, he heard charges against three elderly pacifists - including an 84-year-old nun - arising from a protest at an enriched uranium facility. In this case, Thapar charged the defendants with the federal crime of terrorism to keep them in jail until their sentencing. He then sentenced the nun to 35 months in federal prison, and the two others to more than five years each.
On appeal, the 6th Circuit reversed the most serious convictions against the protesters and, in May 2015, ordered their immediate release from custody, noting that the protesters' sentencing guidelines now recommended substantially less time in custody than they had already served.
Larsen has no real record as a judge, having taken her seat on the 6th Circuit Court in November last year. Her nomination to that seat is notable because it was held up for months by the two Democratic senators from her home state of Michigan, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters. Larsen's Senate confirmation did go forward after she met with the two senators to assure them that she was qualified for the post.
Lee is no longer considered a serious contender for the Supreme Court nomination, in part because Trump's advisors are said to be worried that if he left the Senate, Republicans might not be able to hold his seat. That's just as well, because Lee is the prime sponsor of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, a measure that would allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT customers based on a "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction."
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