November 2017

  • November 3, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Gregg Ivers is Professor of Government at American University. He is currently working on a book, Swingin’ at Jim Crow: How Jazz Became a Civil Rights Movement.

    In September 1962, Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett was looking for something – anything – that would boost his sagging political fortunes. Just three years before, Barnett had barely prevailed in a four-way contest for the Democratic Party’s nomination, winning just 35 percent of the vote, barely one percent more than his closest rival. While Barnett would win handily in the subsequent run-off and run unopposed in the 1959 general election, by mid-1961 his autocratic and less-than-honest governing style had rubbed many white Mississippians the wrong way. Sure, he was among the founders of the state’s first Citizens’ Council, an organization of suit-and-tie businessmen set up after the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education to maintain Mississippi’s unparalleled commitment to racial apartheid in every aspect of public and private life. And, yes, Barnett had shown the Freedom Riders who was boss the previous spring, when he sent the remainder of those who had survived their harrowing May 1961 ordeal in Birmingham and Montgomery to Parchman Farm, the state’s most notorious prison, after their arrival in Jackson for violating the state’s segregation laws.

  • November 3, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Kristin Amerling, Managing Director of Lanthorn Strategies, consultant to ACS, former chief counsel to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and former chief investigative counsel to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

    Recently a bipartisan group of congressional oversight experts issued a set of principles titled “Benchmarks for Congressional Investigations into Russian Interference with U.S. Elections and Related Matters.” This initiative is an important tool for evaluating the credibility and rigor of ongoing investigations into alleged election malfeasance. 

    The document describes four major oversight goals:

     

    (1) a publicly defined investigation scope that includes commitment to follow the facts where they lead;

    (2) comprehensive bipartisan cooperation;

    (3) transparency on developments and findings; and

    (4) regular public reporting on investigative activities.

    It also outlines specific ways for Congress to demonstrate commitment to these principles, such as by holding hearings in public unless there is a compelling reason for a closed session.

  • November 2, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, (D-R.I.)

    *These remarks were given by Senator Whitehouse during a Senate Judiciary Committee Nomination Hearing on November 1, 2017

    Our Senate Judiciary nominations hearings, I believe, have become something of a joke. Nominees come to us readied for our hearings by "murder boards" that taught them how to withstand all five minutes of questioning by Senators. Nominees are often packed into panels, so a Senator’s five minutes get spread across multiple nominees. The questioning of nominees is often simple and rote. A fundamental premise in the proceedings is that there is inevitably “law” that can be impartially applied to “facts,” and there endeth the lesson. 

    The falsity of this premise can be shown in two words: Merrick Garland. If judging were all about impartial application of law to facts, why the desperate effort to stop the most qualified judge to be nominated to the Supreme Court in our lifetimes? Why does the Supreme Court majority of five Republican appointees rule so predictably on so many issues important to big Republican interests? Why did candidate Trump need to make a list of whom he’d appoint to the Court to get conservative backing? Why are gobs of political dark money spent by special interests to push for the confirmation of judicial nominees? All of this political behavior around judicial appointments belies the notion that it’s just about impartially applying law to facts. Yet we’re supposed to accept the pretense.

  • November 2, 2017
    Guest Post

    by James Willis Alt, Vice President of The University of Toledo College of Law ACS Student Chapter and Katherine LaRosa, President of Chicago-Kent College of Law ACS Student Chapter

    What can progressive law students do to better understand bigotry and intolerance and promote diversity? This is the question we sought to answer at this year’s ACS Midwest Regional Student Convening, which drew students to Chicago from across the Midwest. We assembled attorneys, judges, and legal advocates currently working on the front lines of progressive advocacy to discuss the effect and impact of bigotry in our often divisive and polarized political discourse.

    We kicked off the convening Thursday night with remarks about restoring voting rights, the role of state attorneys general, and equity in the law.

  • November 2, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Jeff Mandell, partner at Stafford Rosenbaum LLP and chair of the ACS Madison Lawyer 

    *A shorter version of this post was distributed in Wisconsin by the Progressive Media Project and previously published by The Capital Times, the LaCrosse Tribune, and the Sun Prairie Star. 

    The U.S. Constitution grants the President power to nominate judges for the federal courts “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.” In Wisconsin, for nearly 40 years all presidents, regardless of party, have considered candidates vetted and approved by a nominating commission run by the State Bar in cooperation with both Wisconsin Senators. President Trump unfortunately broke this practice by nominating Michael Brennan for a Wisconsin vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, though the nominating commission did not approve Brennan. Indeed, Brennan interviewed with the White House before even submitting his name to the nominating commission that ultimately did not recommend him.