The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee advanced 24 of President Joe Biden’s nominees for federal judgeships Thursday, in a move that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, described as an attempt to shield “the proverbial ‘worst of the worst’” from “focused public scrutiny.”
“The Biden Administration is attempting to cram through all their most partisan, controversial nominees at once—the proverbial ‘worst of the worst’—to shield them from focused public scrutiny,” Cruz told The Daily Signal in a statement Thursday. “These people have no business being near the federal bench, let alone having life tenure.”
Cruz highlighted six of Biden’s nominees in particular: Nancy Abudu, appointed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals; Julie Rikelman, appointed to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals; Kenly Kato, appointed to the Central District of California; Natasha Merle, appointed to the Eastern District of New York; Dale Ho, appointed to the Southern District of New York; and Nusrat Choudhury, also appointed to the Eastern District of New York.
“Instead of the White House sending experienced, apolitical lawyers and jurists, they instead send extremists like Nancy Abudu, Julie Rikelman, Kenly Kato, Natasha Merle, Dale Ho, and Nusrat Choudhury,” Cruz said. “I ask that at least one Senate Democrat have the courage to stand up and say ‘no’ to these radicals, and demand centrist candidates from the White House, however that is likely asking too much from the modern Democrat party.”
Here are the problems critics have raised with each of these nominees, whose nominations the committee advanced by a party-line vote, with 11 Democrats voting in favor and 10 Republicans voting against them.
Abudu serves as deputy legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a left-leaning litigation firm infamous for branding mainstream conservative and Christian nonprofits “hate groups” and placing them on a list with chapters of the Ku Klux Klan.
A voting rights lawyer, Abudu has made extreme statements on the issue. After the death of George Floyd in June 2020, she compared felons’ loss of voting rights to the system of race-based chattel slavery. She characterized the criminal justice system as “inhumane” and rife with “racial discrimination.”
“When you add laws that prohibit people with a criminal conviction from voting, it’s practically the same system as during slavery—Black people who have lost their freedom and cannot vote,” she wrote.
Abudu also “liked” a LinkedIn post celebrating the 2021 Soros Equity Fellows on LinkedIn. Liberal billionaire George Soros, the fellowship’s namesake and the founder of the Open Society Foundations, has faced hefty criticism for his funding of radical liberal organizations and causes.
Rinkelman, senior litigation director for the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights, argued on behalf of the abortion facility Jackson Women’s Health Organization in the Dobbs case, the case in which the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 abortion precedent Roe v. Wade.
“I want to be clear that I will apply Dobbs faithfully,” Rinkelman told Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., last September. “Our legal system and the rule of law itself depends on lower courts following Supreme Court precedent and as you said Dobbs is now the law of the land and I will follow it as I will follow all Supreme Court precedent.”
Kato, a Japanese-American whose parents were interned during World War II, faces criticism over a 1995 book review in which she criticized Asian Americans who “internalize” the “dialogue of oppressors” and over her refusal to condemn the alleged discrimination against Asian Americans at Harvard, her alma mater.
A former public defender and current federal judge in California, Kato told senators that she did not remember what she was trying to convey in the 1995 book review, even though she did briefly glance over it ahead of her hearing.
In the review, she and her coauthor faulted people they described as Asian American neoconservatives, writing that “Instead of attributing their successes to the efforts of progressives within the disenfranchised group they internalize the dialogue of oppressors, believing in the values of the status quo and condemning the activism of their group.” She urged Asian Americans “to counteract the view that current institutions serve the needs of and are able to empower Asian Americans,” warning that a female Asian American neoconservative “may join oppressive institutions and, thus, contribute to the oppression of herself, her people, and other marginalized groups.”
During the hearing, Cruz connected that review to the current affirmative action case before the Supreme Court involving Harvard. He asked if Harvard’s practice of using race in admissions, which allegedly discriminates against Asian Americans, concerned Kato. She declined to comment.
Cruz said the book review conveyed the idea that “to be sufficiently woke, an Asian American must support policies that discriminate against Asian Americans.”
Merle, a former public defender and current deputy director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, lead a case alleging that Alabama’s legislature intentionally discriminated against black and Latino voters in its voter ID law. A court dismissed the case without a trial.
During an episode of “The Breach” podcast in 2017, Merle claimed that voter ID laws and President Donald Trump’s border wall are “grounded in white supremacy.”
“It’s inconsistent to denounce white supremacy but not repudiate voter ID laws, to not repudiate the Muslim ban, to not repudiate ‘the wall,’” she said. “These are all things that support and are grounded in white supremacy. The voter ID bills disproportionately impact black and brown voters. They disproportionately prevent black and Latino voters from voting. So you cannot say you are not for white supremacy and at the same time be for disenfranchising black and Latino voters.”
She also condemned Republican election integrity laws as “voter suppression” reminiscent of Bloody Sunday in a January 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech at Washington & Lee University School of Law.
When Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., asked Merle about her views that voter ID and a border wall are grounded in white supremacy, the nominee cited a Supreme Court case upholding voter ID laws and stated that she would not make policy on border issues as a judge.
As director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s voting rights project, Dale Ho argued two cases before the Supreme Court: one unsuccessfully challenging the exclusion of illegal immigrants from the population count used to apportion the House of Representatives and one successfully challenging the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
In December 2020, Ho told The New York Times that “There is an anti-democratic virus that has spread in mainstream Republicanism, among mainstream Republican elected officials.” He warned that the “loss of faith in the machinery of democracy is a much bigger problem than any individual lawsuit.”
In response to questions about this comment, he pointed to the context of the article, where his comment appears after the Times characterized Republican laws as aimed at making “voting harder” and claimed that Republicans “falsely portray the expansion and ease of mail-in voting during the pandemic as nefarious.”
Ho also suggested that Florida is not a real democracy because it bars those convicted of one felony from voting. He claimed that 10% of adult citizens and 20% of black men in the Sunshine State cannot vote for this reason. “It’s really hard when you think about those numbers, which are staggering, to really think about Florida as a true, functioning democracy.”
Choudhury, legal director at the ACLU of Illinois, appears to have claimed at Princeton in 2015 that police killing of black men “happens every day” in America. When senators questioned her about the statement last April, noting that there is absolutely no evidence to support it, she did not deny making the statement or present evidence to back it up, but rather excused it by saying she had been speaking “in my role as an advocate.”
Republicans requested a rare second hearing for Choudhury after she sent a letter disavowing the statement, two weeks after the first hearing.
“I did not make this statement,” she wrote. “I strongly disavow this statement, and I regret not disavowing this statement during my hearing. And to be clear, the statement is not true. Such a statement is inconsistent with my deep respect for law enforcement, appreciation for the risks they take, and the important role they play in advancing public safety.”
Fraternal Order of Police President Patrick Yoes spoke out against her confirmation after the hearing, claiming that Choudhry said her statement “with malice aforethought and in so doing buttressed the increased public bias against law enforcement officers and contributed to the barrage of false and hateful rhetoric that inspires others to violence.”
Both the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund told The Washington Examiner‘s Paul Bedard that they also oppose Choudhury’s nomination.
The White House and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., had celebrated Choudhury, saying she would be the first Bangladeshi-American and the first Muslim-American woman to serve on the federal bench.
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