Sen. Al Franken

  • June 16, 2010
    Sen. Al Franken will kick off the 2010 ACS National Convention on Thursday, June 17 with a speech offering a "real-world perspective on what we lose when we let conservatives control our constitutional discourse."

    During the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Sen. Franken tackled an element of conservatives' constitutional discourse that tags progressive judges as engaging in so-called judicial activism. Franken pointed to the Supreme Court's conservative wing as evidence that it is a leading force of activism from the bench.

    "The current Supreme Court has consistently struck down and questioned longstanding protections for Americans," Franken said during Sotomayor's confirmation hearings. "And I'm talking about individual rights, individual protections, individual liberties. This Supreme Court came close to overturning critical portions of the voting rights act. The Court did this despite the express powers that Congress has granted under the 15th amendment to enact this law." Franken went on to note recent Supreme Court rulings that have made it more difficult for people file lawsuits. "This is judicial activism," Frank said. "This is a Court that is willing to reverse itself to limit the rights of individual Americans. This is a Court that is more than willing to overturn Congress to achieve its own agenda of what is right."

    In a press statement on the Sotomayor nomination, Franken continued that the high court's rulings have also had a detrimental impact on "the rights of Americans as employees, as small business owners, and as investors. And they've done this by overturning long-standing precedents."

    Franken is the featured speaker at the Convention's Gala Dinner starting at 7 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. The Convention runs June 17 - 19. Visit the ACS Web site here, for the full Convention schedule and to register.

  • March 24, 2010

    Before enactment of the so-called Franken Amendment, government contractors were permitted to contractually deny employees the right to sue for sexual assaults on the job. This was the hurdle faced by Jamie Leigh Jones, a former employee of Halliburton-subsidiary KBR in Iraq's "Green Zone."

    The facts leading to Jones' dispute were provided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit as follows: 

    Jones alleges that, following a social gathering outside her barracks, at which alcohol had been consumed, she was drugged, beaten, and gang-raped by several Halliburton/KBR employees in her barracks bedrooom. 

    A clause in Jones' contract, however, initially prevented her from suing KBR for its role in the alleged sexual assault she survived. While Jones appealed the mandatory arbitration clause in federal court -- a claim fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court by KBR -- Sen. Al Franken submitted an amendment to pending legislation restoring Jones' right to her day in court. 

    According to a statement by KBR spokesperson Heather Browne, KBR dropped its Supreme Court appeal as a direct result of the Franken Amendment

  • March 17, 2010
    ACSblog reported yesterday on a number of senators who have expressed frustration over the lagging pace of judicial confirmations. In one statement, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy condemned the "delays and obstruction" of President Obama's nominations. Other senators, though, joined the chorus charging Republicans with abusing the filibuster to delay or scuttle the administration's judicial selections and to obstruct other important business of the Senate. 

    Senator Al Franken (pictured) took to the senate floor to deliver a pointed rebuke of his "colleagues [who] seem more interested in using every procedural method possible to keep the Senate from doing anything." Franken cited multiple instances in which senate Republicans attempted to filibuster nominations that were ultimately confirmed by unanimous or near-unanimous votes. This practice, he charged, is a "perversion of the filibuster and a perversion of the role of the Senate." 

    Franken continued:

    In February, the Senate finally confirmed the noncontroversial administrator of the General Services Administration after 9 months. The vote was 94 to 2. Similarly this month, my colleagues forced a cloture vote, they forced a cloture vote to approve a judicial nominee for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. She was then confirmed unanimously, 99 to 0. Yet we are forced to vote for a filibuster. That is nuts. This is a perversion of the filibuster and a perversion of the role of the Senate. It used to be the filibuster was reserved for matters of great principle. Today it has become a way to play out the clock.

  • December 1, 2009

    Operating under the spectre of additional filibusters, the Senate considered two of President Barack Obama's judicial nominations today.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee, with only Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Al Franken present, held a hearing on the nomination of Rhode Island Superior Court Justice Rogeriee Thompson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. "So far, so good," said Whitehouse, who added that the absence of opposition at Thompson's hearing could hamper later attempts to obstruct her nomination. Upon confirmation, Thompson would become the first African-American and only the second woman to serve on the Boston-based appellate court.

    Considering the nomination of Judge Jacqueline Nguyen to the Central District of California in Los Angeles, the full Senate voted 97-0 for confirmation. Judge Nguyen is the first Vietnamese-American ever to serve as an Article III judge.

    Meanwhile, conservative activists are calling on the Senate to block two of Obama's nominees to federal trial courts.