Caroline Fredrickson

  • April 10, 2017

    by Caroline Fredrickson

    Soon after President Donald Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN)—a conservative secret-money group that spends millions of dollars on ads attacking judges—promised to spend up to $10 million in support of his nomination. Representing a major attack on the fairness and impartiality of our judicial branch, this same group, among many other organizations, has been increasingly involved with big-money efforts to help elect or attack their favored state supreme court judges—all behind a curtain of secrecy.

    When asked directly by Sen. Whitehouse about why these groups are so interested in supporting his nomination, Gorsuch responded, “You’d have to ask them.” For a Supreme Court candidate, this betrays an inexcusable lack of understanding and concern for the menacing role that secret money has played in this Supreme Court nomination process and in many of our state judicial elections. “We don’t know because it is dark money,” Sen. Whitehouse countered a frustrated Judge Gorsuch about the secret money group, “I can’t [ask them]. I don’t know who they are. It’s just a front group.”

    The $10 million was in addition to the $7 million that JCN already spent in its effort to distort the record of Chief Judge Merrick Garland, Obama’s Supreme Court nominee who Republicans and JCN itself previously praised.

    At the state level, the group recently spent big to help persuade Arkansas voters to reject judicial candidates who JCN argued would favor injured individuals over corporate defendants. JCN spent far more money than any of the candidates. One of its ads criticized the Arkansas Chief Justice for a unanimous ruling to strike down a voter ID law, which JCN claimed could lead to “illegal immigrants voting.” Arkansas Business said the JCN ads should be “categorized as lies.” And in 2012, JCN ran a revolting last-minute ad attacking a Michigan Supreme Court candidate, exploiting the tragic death of a U.S. soldier to lie about the judicial candidate’s record. A recent report from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network found that $3.4 million was spent on the 2016 supreme court race there, with 50 percent of the money from secret sources.

  • March 31, 2017

    by Caroline Fredrickson

    Next week, Senators will vote on Trump’s most enduring legacy as president. Lawmakers will vote up or down on Judge Neil Gorsuch, the president’s nominee to be associate justice of the Supreme Court. 

    To fulfill their advice and consent duties, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a four-day confirmation hearing to question Gorsuch, including his 10-year record of 2,700 appeals on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. As a witness, the nominee shared center stage with the looming presences of Chief Judge Merrick Garland and Trump. Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) opening statement put the three competing interests in perspective:

    The Judiciary Committee once stood against a court-packing scheme that would have eroded judicial independence. That was a proud moment. Now, Republicans on this Committee are guilty of their own “court un-packing scheme.” The blockade of Chief Judge Merrick Garland was never grounded in principle or precedent.

    While Senate Republicans were meeting in back rooms to block President Obama’s nominee, extreme special interest groups were also meeting in private – to vet potential Supreme Court nominee for then-candidate Donald Trump. I do not know of any other Supreme Court nominee who was selected by interest groups, rather than by a president in consultation with the Senate, as required by the Constitution.

  • March 15, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Caroline Fredrickson

    This week marks a national initiative to highlight transparency, accountability and open government. The timing could not be better.

    Sunshine Week, March 12-18, falls the week before confirmation hearings begin for Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

    National discourse has centered on the president’s commitment to core constitutional values and his understanding of the importance of rule of law. Indeed, leading constitutional scholars have already raised red flags on numerous issues and lawsuits have been filed.

    Events of the last few months have increased the gravity of the decision about who should fill the ninth seat on the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is often the last defense for our Constitution and it is imperative that any nominee not be beholden to any one person, let alone the president of the United States.

    Throughout his campaign and since his election, the president repeatedly emphasized that his Supreme Court nominee would be the most conservative jurist he could find, and he made sure his nominee passed a series of litmus tests, including on reproductive rights and gun safety laws. This compromises the independence of the judiciary at a time when we especially need to rely on the courts to make their own assessment of the constitutionality of legislative and executive actions. Decisions from federal judges across the country impact the lives of all of us, from how we are treated in the workplace, how the law regards women, racial minorities and those with disabilities, among others, consumer protections, the safety of our environment, our right to vote and our immigration system – just to name a few issues.

  • February 16, 2017

    by Caroline Fredrickson

    Late Show's host Stephen Colbert gave me the best Valentine’s eve presents: laughter and some straight talk.

    In typical fashion in the opening monologue, Colbert satirized White House senior adviser Stephen Miller's explanation of executive power. In response to a question about the lessons of Trump's Muslim ban during an appearance on Face the Nation, Miller declared that “the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”

    After showing a video clip of Trump's advisor, Colbert asked “Will not be questioned? Let me test that theory. What the f--- are you talking about?” That line received the biggest applause.

    We all have to question Trump. The second biggest question - after what did Trump know about Kremlingate and when did he know it - is what can we do to resist Trump?

    Friends, family, colleagues and neighbors ask the (second) big question slightly differently, depending on the day and what scared them in the news. There are so many variations of this essential question:

    How can we combat fake news stories?

    What can I do to push back on Trump’s attacks on judges?

    How can I resist the Muslim ban?

    What is the best way to fight against fill in the blank millionaire or billionaire Trump cabinet pick?

    There is one answer for all of these questions: volunteer.

    Last week, ACS started a new page on which we collect and disseminate volunteer projects. For example, this week we encourage everyone – and I mean everyone – to contest fake news and fake history by teaching "Love Our Constitution," a classroom program in which lawyers, law students, and others concerned about our courts and legal system will conduct presentations and discussions across the United States about our highest law of the land and courts during the week of Valentine’s Day (Sunday, Feb. 12- Saturday, Feb. 18).

    Help us spread the word. Tell your friends and family to check our list of volunteer projects. And most importantly, volunteer your time and show you love our Constitution by opposing unlawful presidential acts.

  • January 23, 2017

    by Caroline Fredrickson

    On Jan. 23 – President Donald Trump’s self-proclaimed day one, it is worth remembering the first words of the Constitution

    We, the people, are the "historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen." Pictures of Women's Marches all over the world prove it. 

    The majority of Americans did not vote for Trump. Historically low approval ratings and small inaugural crowds show Trump does not have a mandate for his agenda.

    So now we must get to work. Movements need consistent, sustained people power. Here are five ways to fuel the movement:

    -Join many groups - start with ACS

    -Run for office or support champions of your favorite issues in statehouses and Congress

    -Call your members of Congress and tell them what you think about Trump's cabinet picks - start with the attorney general nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)

    -Fight fake news by forming a rapid response group with your family, friends and colleagues

    -Volunteer for ACS projects

    -Research

    -Pro bono work

    -Constitution in the Classroom

    -Mentor

    -Write

    If you are interested in volunteering for ACS projects, email us at [email protected].

    Like anything worthwhile, our movement is an everyday commitment. We have so much at stake.