A SCOTUS Shortlist For 2020 Dems Includes An Anti-ICE Prof And A Judge Who Compared Trump To George Wallace

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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  • Demand Justice, the liberal judicial group, released a list of prospective Supreme Court nominees Tuesday. 
  • The group urged candidates to prioritize progressive cause lawyers and academics, instead of people with more conventional credentials. 
  • A former senior Republican aide on the Senate Judiciary Committee said the list may as well be a campaign ad for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Demand Justice, a left-wing judicial advocacy group, released a list of 32 possible nominees for the high court Tuesday, the latest escalation of a continued campaign to force Democratic presidential candidates to engage with the Supreme Court and judicial confirmation issues.

Tuesday’s move comes one day after Demand Justice led a coalition of liberal advocacy groups that pressed the moderators of Tuesday night’s Democratic debate to ask the presidential contenders about “structural reforms” to the high court and the sort of justices they will appoint.

“To prod the candidates, Demand Justice is releasing its own Supreme Court shortlist of possible nominees in the next Democratic administration,” the group said in a statement. “Our list is made up of brilliant lawyers who have spent their careers fighting for progressive values and represent the diversity of our nation.”

The roster is nearer to a progressive wishlist than a serious shortlist for a Democratic president. It is heavy on law professors, liberal cause lawyers, and firebrand politicians, but lighter on candidates with more conventional credentials. Demand Justice said its unorthodox approach is intentional.

“In releasing this list, we also hope to make clear that the next Democratic president ought to approach the task of nominating judges with a new playbook — one that prioritizes unabashedly progressive lawyers and legal thinkers, who have all too often been pushed aside,” the group said. “None of the lawyers on our list are corporate lawyers, in keeping with our call for the next president to avoid nominating any more lawyers who have been partners at corporate law firms or in-house counsel at large corporations.”

The “unabashedly progressive” streak Demand Justice sought includes some sharper edges. (RELATED: Big Companies Push Liberal Social Agenda At Supreme Court)

One nominee on its list, U.S. District Judge Carlton Wayne Reeves, compared President Donald Trump’s criticisms of the judiciary to those of segregationist George Wallace during a blistering April speech at the University of Virginia. Another, professor Zephyr Teachout of Fordham University School of Law, called for the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during her 2018 bid for New York attorney general. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supported Teachout’s campaign.

Others on the list figured prominently in the legal resistance to Trump’s domestic agenda. Vanita Gupta of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has played a leading role in organizing opposition to Trump’s judicial nominees. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has coordinated multi-state legal challenges to the administration’s bid to end DACA and change rules on green cards eligibility.

The Article III Project’s Mike Davis, a former Republican aide on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the list more closely resembles a campaign ad for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Carrie Severino of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network similarly said the list is rounded out with “far left” judicial activists.

“These people are radicals,” Severino said. “This list is a dream come true for far left activists who seek to turn the courts into a political super-legislature.”

The Demand Justice list is as notable for its selections as it is for its omissions. Candidates former President Barack Obama considered for the high court are not featured, including Judge Paul Watford of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Judge Patricia Millett of the U.S. Court for Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; and U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. All three represented corporate clients in private practice before taking the bench.

Demand Justice also placed a premium on diversity in curating its list. A majority of the candidates — 19 of 32 — are women and 13 are men, including one trans man. 11 candidates are white, ten are black, seven are Asian American, and four are Latino. Two are lesbians.

Judge Merrick Garland, whose nomination to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia faltered before protracted opposition from Senate Republicans, is also excluded from the list.

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