May 12, 2023

A Week in the Law

Russ Feingold President

We are less than a week from our 2023 ACS National Convention. I am looking forward to seeing many of you at the convention in Washington, DC, which I hope will give ACS and its members the knowledge, strength, and inspiration to meet the most pressing challenges of our time. Registration to attend convention in person is closed, but there is still time to register to attend virtually.

This week exemplified both the challenges we are confronting and the reason why we are so focused on the courts.

Let’s start with the latest chapter in the Supreme Court’s legitimacy crisis. Harlan Crowe, Republican megadonor and Justice Clarence Thomas’ billionaire benefactor, is refusing to provide to the Senate Judiciary Committee the list of gifts he has given to Justice Thomas over the years. We already know that Crowe has paid for Thomas and his wife to go on lavish vacations, domestically and abroad; purchased and remodeled the house in which Justice Thomas’ mother continues to reside; and, paid for Justice Thomas’ grandnephew’s private school tuition.

So what should come next? We at ACS support the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaing Justice Thomas because the public has a right to hear from one of the most powerful judges in the country about his failure to comply with federal disclosure laws. If the billionaire benefactor will not disclose what gifts he has given a sitting justice, all the more reason for the Justice himself to be questioned about those gifts. For the Senate Judiciary Committee to do this is not a threat to the Court’s independence, it is our Constitution’s checks and balances at work.

From the Supreme Court, we turn to the Fifth Circuit. The three-judge panel that will hear next week’s appeal in the Mifepristone lawsuit was announced this week. This lawsuit is a case in point of the nationwide power that federal judges have. This is the lawsuit in which District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk has sought to inflict his partisan and ideological agenda on the country by trying to ban a drug that has been widely and safely used for over 20 years. That decision is thankfully on hold, but we are in the precarious situation of relying on the same Supreme Court that overturned Roe to now preserve the availability of medication abortion. The Fifth Circuit panel will hear the appeal in the case next week. We are tracking the lawsuit closely and will continue to report on it, here, at Convention, and on our podcast, “Broken Law.”

The Mifepristone lawsuit is also one more reason why we are unrelenting in urging the Senate to maximize judicial confirmations. We need federal judges who are committed to the rule of law and to vindicating our fundamental freedoms, because we need to counter the likes of Judge Kacsmaryk who rules according to partisan interests. The Senate, and particularly the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been hampered by attendance issues for months, reducing the pace in confirmations. With Senator Feinstein back in Washington as of this week, it is paramount that the Senate not waste a single moment in confirming all pending nominees and clearing the way for the White House to roll out more nominees for the still dozens of federal vacancies.

A big highlight from this week and affirmation of the rule of law, E. Jean Carroll and her legal team secured a unanimous jury verdict against Donald Trump for sexual abuse and defamation. We at ACS are proud of our board member Joshua Matz and his work as a member of the Kaplan Hecker legal team working on this case. The verdict follows the New York indictment against Trump earlier this year for hush money payments made during his 2016 presidential campaign. As I’ve written here before: A pillar of the rule of law is that no amount of money or power can elevate someone above it. Nobody, no matter rank or title, is above the law.