More of This A Black Woman on the Supreme Court will make our democracy stronge
Chris Punongbayan is a lawyer and Executive Director of ChangeLawyers.
For the first time since 1789 when the United States Supreme Court was created, a Black woman may become a Justice of the Court. It’s painful— but not surprising— to fathom that after 233 years and 115 Justices, there has never been a Black Woman Justice.
And this profound lack of representation is not just a Supreme Court problem. According to the Pew Research Center, there have only ever been 70 Black women who have served as a federal judge. That’s 1.8% of the 3,843 federal judges ever.
In California, there are currently 112 Black women serving as state judges, justices, and commissioners, according to data collected by the California Association of Black Lawyers Judicial Council. This is out of a total of 1755 seats at the trial level, 108 appellate level justices, and 7 Supreme Court seats. One of those seats is held by California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, who is widely regarded as one of President Biden’s top picks for the US Supreme Court vacancy.
If a Black woman fills the seat on the high Court, it will end a shameful 233 year streak.
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Less of This The Supreme Court is lying to you
Justice Amy Coney Barrett delivered a speech this week that echoed decades of conservative talking points about the proper, limited role of judges in a democracy. But that restrained vision is completely divorced from Barrett’s own conduct as a conservative justice — not to mention that of the Republican majority she consistently votes with.
Her remarks, which were offered at an academic symposium hosted by Notre Dame Law School, were grounded in the rhetoric of judicial restraint that Republican politicians have used to talk about the proper role of the courts at least as far back as Richard Nixon.
The Court’s youngest justice drew a distinction between “pragmatists,” judges who “tend to favor broader judicial discretion,” and “formalists,” who “tend to seek constraints on judicial discretion” and “favor methods of constitutional interpretation that demand close adherence to the constitutional text, and to history and tradition.” She placed herself in the latter camp.
As a justice, however, Barrett has behaved as an unapologetic pragmatist. Along with the Court’s other Republican appointees, Barrett supports flexible legal doctrines that give her Court maximal discretion to veto federal regulations that a majority of the justices disagree with — especially regulations promoting public health or protecting the environment. And she’s joined her fellow Republican justices in imposing novel limits on the Voting Rights Act that appear nowhere in the law’s text.
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Speaking Of… This Supreme Court Justice and his wife have a terrifying vision for America
The call to action was titled “Election Results and Legal Battles: What Now?” Shared in the days after the 2020 presidential election, it urged the members of an influential if secretive right-wing group to contact legislators in three of the swing states that tipped the balance for Joe Biden — Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. The aim was audacious: Keep President Donald J. Trump in power.
The group, the Council for National Policy, brings together old-school Republican luminaries, Christian conservatives, Tea Party activists and MAGA operatives, with more than 400 members who include leaders of organizations like the Federalist Society, the National Rifle Association and the Family Research Council. Founded in 1981 as a counterweight to liberalism, the group was hailed by President Ronald Reagan as seeking the “return of righteousness, justice and truth” to America.
As Trump insisted, without evidence, that fraud had cheated him of victory, conservative groups rushed to rally behind him. The council stood out, however, not only because of its pedigree but also because one of its newest leaders was Virginia Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas and a longtime activist in right-wing circles. She had taken on a prominent role at the council during the Trump years and by 2019 had joined the nine-member board of C.N.P. Action, an arm of the council organized as a 501(c)4 under a provision of the tax code that allows for direct political advocacy. It was C.N.P. Action that circulated the November “action steps” document, the existence of which has not been widely known. It instructed members to pressure Republican lawmakers into challenging the election results and appointing alternate slates of electors: “Demand that they not abandon their Constitutional responsibilities during a time such as this.”
Such a plan, if carried out successfully, would have almost certainly landed before the Supreme Court — and Ginni Thomas’s husband. In fact, Trump was already calling for that to happen. In a Dec. 2 speech at the White House, the president falsely claimed that “millions of votes were cast illegally in swing states alone” and said he hoped “the Supreme Court of the United States will see it” and “will do what’s right for our country, because our country cannot live with this kind of an election.”
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