Walking out of the movie theater after watching RBG, a film about the accomplishments and life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I felt empowered, proud and hopeful. Even before she was a Supreme Court justice, Ginsburg worked with the ACLU to fight cases of sex discrimination, later becoming a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Watching the film, I realized what an impact a judge can have.
But then, I thought about the fact that the President gets to nominate those who will serve as judges. And as I thought about the people President Donald Trump has nominated, like Ryan Bounds, that realization became a double-edged sword, taking on a grisly and foreboding aspect.
Trump has nominated Ryan Bounds, currently the Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, for a lifetime position on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. And despite Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D-Ore.) adamant disapproval due to Bounds’ remarks and his failure to initially disclose them, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has trampled longstanding Senate processes in order to push him through. Unlike the notorious RBG, Bounds’ past indicates he will work not to uphold the constitutional rights and legal protections of people who face oppression, but to undermine them. Bounds showed his stripes in his past commentaries in The Stanford Review, written while he was a student in the 1990s. His op-eds include many inflammatory and degrading remarks, such as writings about sexual assault survivors, people of color, labor unions and the LGBTQ community.
Here are five reasons Bounds is unsuited for federal bench:
Bounds has a history of belittling the gravity of sexual assault and undermining justice for survivors. In one opinion piece, he derided the expulsion of rapists from college campuses, saying it would not “contribute a great deal toward a rape victim’s recovery” and that “there is nothing that the University can do to objectively ensure that the rapist does not strike again.” He supported the university raising the standard of proof for sexual assault, which goes against Title IX protections against a hostile environment. Moreover, he asserted that students “did not come to Stanford University to be parented or morally reared.”
In another piece, Bounds criticized Stanford’s order that student organizations conduct mandatory sensitivity training after inebriated athletes vandalized a gay pride statue. He deemed “sensitivity” and activism for racial justice and LGBTQ rights a “pestilence” that “threatens to corrupt our scholastic experience and tear our student community asunder.” This is why thirty-two LGBTQ advocacy organizations have signed a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee asking them to reject Bounds’ nomination.
His writings show a disdain for civil rights advocacy and the experiences of people of color, and he has ridiculed the goal of diversity and inclusivity in modern institutions. Bounds wrote an article denouncing what he called the “Multicultural Garden of Eden” and “race-think” on Stanford’s campus, which he defined in part as people of color dividing up “by race for their feel-good ethnic hoedowns” and “believing that the moral superiority of the group is unquestionable.”
Bounds expressed scorn toward students protesting attacks on labor unions and workers’ rights. In one of his op-eds about a student protest outside the sister hotel of a ‘union-busting’ hotel, from which three employees were fired for attempting to form a union, he mocked the protesters and their cause, implying the demonstration was a waste of time.
Finally, Bounds’ failure to disclose all of his past writings on these topics also makes questioning his candor fair game. Simply saying he apologizes, and only after the opinion pieces were unearthed, is not enough to erase the past. These writings provide a window into his biases, which would only serve to hurt women, people of color, the working class, and the LGBTQ community. As Senator Wyden (D-Ore.) said on the Senate floor, “It goes without saying that individuals who are up for a lifetime seat on a powerful federal court must be forthcoming and truthful in the nomination process. My view is Ryan Bounds hasn’t even cleared that low bar.”
Being a judge means being a good listener and hearing those whose stories have been ignored. It means creating a more just and equitable society, not furthering the divides of gender, race and sexuality. Bounds has shown he is biased against this work, and that raises serious concerns about his suitability for such an influential position.
As the notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “We have the oldest written constitution still in force in the world, and it starts out with three words, ‘We, the people.’” If Bounds is unable to recognize the legal protections of everyone included in the country, and instead expresses contempt for such rights, one must question his ability to make fair and impartial decisions as a judge.