Biden's judicial nominees prove 'liberal dark money groups' control his administration: legal expert

U.S. President Joe Biden gestures as he speaks on the anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on March 11, 2021. | AFP via Getty Images/MANDEL NGAN

A former law clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas has alleged that President Joe Biden’s newly released list of judicial nominees proves that he's letting “liberal dark money groups” control his administration. 

Carrie Severino, president of the think-tank Judicial Crisis Network, which advocates for the appointment of originalist U.S. Supreme Court justices, expressed concern about Biden’s first list of judicial nominees. The nominees on the list, released Tuesday, would fill 11 vacancies on the federal courts. Severino wrote about Judge Katenji Brown Jackson, Biden’s pick to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in an op-ed for National Review.

“Jackson has been on the Supreme Court shortlist of Demand Justice, to which prospects do not make the cut unless they are far to the left,” she said. Others on the liberal group’s shortlist include employees of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, as well as a visiting professor of social justice at Union Theological Seminary and a former Planned Parenthood attorney. 

Judicial Crisis Network chief counsel, Carrie Severino, speaks at a Heritage Foundation panel discussion in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 2015. | The Christian Post /Samuel Smith

Severino noted that prior to becoming a federal judge, Jackson “represented indigent criminal appellants before the D.C. Circuit” and submitted “amicus briefs on behalf of accused enemy combatants in military detention.” In a Twitter thread Tuesday, Severino explained that the context in which the judicial nominations are occurring should concern conservatives: “As Politico playbook noted this morning, President Biden has been working overtime to appease the far left, and we can expect his judges to rubber-stamp their extreme radical agenda.”

“One of these appeasement tactics is paying back the liberal dark-money groups that spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect him and Senate Democrats. This includes myriad dark money groups propped up by the vast Arabella Advisors Network,” she continued. Severino mentioned in her op-ed that Demand Justice, which has included Jackson on their list of favored Supreme Court candidates, is part of the Arabella Advisors Network.

Severino elaborated on the implications of dark money groups’ support for Biden’s nominees in an interview with The Christian Post: “I think what … we can see are the groups that are very happy with these nominees, which again is the same laundry list of the … dark money organizations … we know that they are very satisfied by that list of nominees and I think that’s … enough to raise my concern.”  

According to Severino, the list of judicial nominees is the latest example of how Biden’s “priorities and agenda are largely dictated at this point by the liberal dark money forces that helped put him in office, and we’re seeing that play out in the administration appointments, and now we’re seeing that play out in the judicial appointments as well.” In addition to Demand Justice, Severino cited the Alliance for Justice, People for the American Way, and the American Constitution Society as examples of liberal “dark money groups.”

“We have seen those groups on the left insisting on some of the most radical positions … on both abortion, on religious freedom, etc. And the fact that they are all very happy with these nominees tells you all you need to know about their positions on those cases. Because when … these groups talk about judges and the importance of nominating judges, they don’t talk about … the importance of their judicial philosophy, for example, they talk about (judges) in terms of the policy goals that those judges are going to help them achieve,” she added.

“And so, if you wonder how … they’re going to be deciding cases, it is pretty clear … because of the support they’re getting from groups who do view judges just as a means to achieve policy ends, they obviously consider them completely reliable to deliver those policy goals.” 

As Severino told CP, a lot of Biden’s judicial picks “aren’t even judges yet,” making it difficult to determine “what their judicial philosophy would be.”

Biden’s nominees include attorneys working in the private sector: Tiffany Cunningham, the president’s nominee to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, his nominee to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Margaret Strickland, who he nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico. 

One of Biden’s picks to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, Julien Neals, works as a county counsel in Bergen County. Biden also nominated Judges Deborah Boardman and Lydia Griggsby to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Judge Zahid Quraishi to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, as well as Judges Florence Pan and Rupa Ranga Puttagunta to serve on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. 

For his part, Biden seemed enthusiastic about his candidates, whom he described as “trailblazing” and “the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession.” He maintained that “Each is deeply qualified and prepared to deliver justice faithfully under our Constitution and impartially to the American people — and together they represent the broad diversity of background, experience, and perspective that makes our nation strong.”

The White House announcement about Biden’s nominees touted the “groundbreaking” racial diversity of the picks, which include: “three African American women chosen for Circuit Court vacancies, as well as candidates who, if confirmed, would be the first Muslim American federal judge in U.S. history, the first (Asian American Pacific Islander) woman to ever serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of D.C., and the first woman of color to ever serve as a federal judge for the District of Maryland.”

While the list of judicial nominees provides information about the candidates’ experience and education, it doesn't include information about their philosophies and past rulings, if applicable.

Overall, liberal groups, including Demand Justice, have praised Biden’s list of judicial nominees. In a statement, Demand Justice Executive Director Brian Fallon highlighted the “public defenders and civil rights lawyers in this group” as “exactly the kind of judges we need to rebalance our courts.” However, he also took a veiled swipe at the nomination of corporate attorney Regina Rodriguez, who the president has nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. 

Subtly referring to the recommendation by Colorado’s two Democratic senators that Rodriguez serve on the bench, which Demand Justice criticized, Fallon lamented that “old habits die hard for some senators who are used to recommending corporate lawyers and prosecutors for federal judgeships.” Fallon expressed a preference for public defenders and civil rights lawyers, whom he described as “underrepresented professional backgrounds.” 

Current Senate rules allow judicial nominees to be confirmed with a simple majority, as opposed to the 60 votes required to pass most legislation. With a 50-50 split in the Senate and Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote for the Democrats, Biden should be able to get all of his candidates confirmed without Republican support if all Democrats vote in favor of them. 

Severino acknowledged that opponents of Biden’s judicial nominees will have a difficult time blocking their confirmations, but she contended that a Senate Democrat representing a very red state, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and another Senate Democrat representing a purple state, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, could be open to persuasion.

“Are they going to stand with the citizens of their states, the … many Americans who don’t want the courts turned into politics by other means, or are they going to go along with the demands of the Democratic Party and … just toe the line?” she asked.

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