The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) sent a letter today to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to voice concern over reports that some Senate leaders are considering reducing the number of members on the Senate Judiciary Committee for the incoming Congress. The letter expresses apprehension that such a step would impair the committee’s ability to vet judicial nominees, among other consequences.

“Because of its tremendous responsibilities at this moment in our country, the Senate Judiciary Committee should be expanded, not reduced,” said LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill, who signed the letter. “We have deep concerns about the committee’s ability to responsibly exercise its critical role in fully evaluating judicial nominees and in doing the necessary work of oversight of the Department of Justice, particularly at this critical moment. Judicial confirmations alone warrant an expanded committee.  Over the past two years, we’ve seen disqualifying facts about nominees revealed late in the confirmation process, sometimes only through the hard work and diligence of outside groups. The Committee must also be equipped to do the work of oversight, especially over the Department of Justice, which is currently led by an Acting Attorney General with limited relevant experience who was appointed under extraordinary circumstances. This is a moment when the work of the Senate Judiciary Committee serves as a vital and necessary safeguard of our nation’s justice system. We reject any plan to reduce the size of the Committee or to remove existing members who would otherwise serve on the Committee in the 116th Congress.”

LDF’s letter lists several recent instances in which judicial nominations have been withdrawn or voted down after outside groups uncovered disqualifying details from their past, including:

  • Brett Talley, nominated for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. He withdrew from consideration after outside advocacy groups revealed thousands of online posts he authored, including one defending the “first KKK” and posts in which he referred to the Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade and Miranda v. Arizona as “indefensible,” all of which he also failed to disclose to the Senate.

 

  • Ryan Bounds, a nominee for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. He also withdrew from consideration after research by advocacy groups released racist writings he had not fully disclosed.

 

  • Jeff Mateer, who was nominated for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, said in a 2015 speech that transgender children are evidence of “Satan’s plan,” indicated that he supported conversion therapy, and suggested that gay marriage could lead to polygamy and bestiality. His nomination was withdrawn in December 2017 after the speech and its contents were revealed by outside advocacy groups.

 

LDF also cautions that contracting the Senate Judiciary Committee runs the risk of making it an even less representative body; currently, just four of its 21 members are women, and one, Senator Kamala Harris, is the first Black woman to sit on the committee in its more than 200 years.

Read the letter here.

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Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF