The Senate Judiciary Committee leadership continued their quest to pack the courts with extreme Trump judges this week. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals nominee, Eric Miller- another highly partisan candidate with a record of opposing abortion rights, worker’s rights, and indigenous rights.
While working at the Department of Justice, Miller filed an amicus brief in Women’s Medical Professional Corporation v. Taft, in support of Ohio’s ban of a medically necessary abortion procedure. It is unusual for the Justice Department to get involved in a case about a state law when there was no federal entity involved nor existing federal laws implicated, but DOJ’s intervention was considered part of the Bush Administration’s larger campaign to undermine abortion access. In Britell v. United States, Miller defended the government’s denial of coverage – through the United States Department of Defense health insurance program for those enrolled in the military – for abortion in the case of a serious fetal anomaly. While working at Perkins Coie, he defended Microsoft’s employment policy that created significant hurdles for a long-time employee facing gender-based harassment to file a hostile work environment claim.
Miller is also criticized for his history of advocating against the rights of Native American tribes as a private attorney. His history was bad enough to compel two leading organizations that represent tribal governments and communities, the National Congress of American Indians, and the Native American Rights Fund, to oppose his nomination. It’s rather symbolic that this hearing falls between Indigenous People’s Day and Thanksgiving, a time that reminds us of the United States’ horrible mistreatment of indigenous people and continued oppression of Native communities, especially Native women who are twice as likely to experience sexual violence and face significant barriers to accessing reproductive health and abortions.
In light of his terrible record against women’s right to abortion and against the rights of Native Americans, it is perhaps not surprising that Miller does not have the support of his home state senators. While the Senate Judiciary Committee traditionally does not move forward with a nominee without that support, Senator Grassley just doesn’t care. He will break any tradition or long-honored rule in order to further Trump’s agenda of jamming the courts with extremely ideological, anti-women, partisan judges.
Given the kind of people being nominated by the Trump Administration, the ability to properly question nominees is of utmost importance. But, in scheduling this hearing, Senator Grassley ignored the request of 10 committee members to stop holding hearings during pre-election recess, when members cannot attend. Instead, Grassley once again denied senators their ability to fully participate in the advice and consent process necessary to properly vet nominees for lifetime appointments on the federal courts. During the hearing, the two nominees for seats on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals were questioned for a total of 15 minutes by the only two Senators – both Republicans – who were able to be there. Even Senator Grassley wasn’t in attendance.
We cannot sit idle as Trump and Senators Grassley and McConnell cripple our independent judiciary and use the courts to dismantle our hard-fought legal rights and protections. We must keep fighting to protect our courts and the values that matter to us.