August 10, 2022

Federal and State Judges Must Remain Priorities

Russ Feingold President

While headlines from Congress might be about legislation these days, there is also history being made with judges. As of this week, President Biden has nominated 132 federal judicial candidates, and the Senate has already confirmed 76 of them to the federal bench. To put this into context, former President Trump had 51 of his judicial candidates confirmed by this same point in his administration. Want more history? President Biden has had more judges confirmed at this point in his tenure than any president since John F. Kennedy.  Moreover, President Biden has made history in the diversity of his nominees, with a majority being women and people of color.

This is no time to slow down. We are urging the White House and the Senate to continue to prioritize judges. We strongly advocated for the Senate to stay in session this month, and now we are focused on the Senate maximizing every day this fall to fill judicial vacancies. Nobody knows how the November elections will turn out, but we know this current Senate can confirm judges. Our message is clear: the White House should nominate, and the Senate should confirm as many federal judges as possible, while they can. We have been saying this for months, and we will continue to say it.

The White House has taken note and nominated dozens of candidates in recent weeks. This pace should be maintained throughout the remainder of the year. And most of all, we need the Senate to come back in September with a renewed commitment to confirming judges. We’ve been asking ACS members to call their Senators and urge them to prioritize judges. Thank you to everyone who has already done this. If you haven’t, now is a great time. Senators are in their home districts, talking to constituents. Make sure you are one of the constituents they hear from.

As we continue to make strides on the federal level, we are also putting a premium on state-level engagement. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, it sent the fate of abortion rights to the states, which ultimately means to state courts.

Already, lawsuits about state abortion bans and related laws have been filed in more than a dozen states, including in Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia. Lawyers, providers, and patients are desperately trying to figure out what the status of abortion rights is in their states and to retain abortion access for as long as possible.

We are witnessing the importance of state judges who are committed to fundamental rights. In several states, judges are issuing injunctions to temporarily block state abortion bans and other laws impeding abortion access. Even if a lower court injunction is subsequently overturned, it still can enable more patients to access abortion care in the interim. For now, a 24-hour injunction can be enough for a clinic to re-open temporarily and for at least some patients to access the healthcare they need. This is how critical it is that we have state court judges who believe in vindicating our fundamental rights.

Today, ACS has 55 Path to the Bench Working Groups across 42 states, and these numbers are growing. We are actively working on state courts in several states and will be expanding this work in the coming months and years. Our student and lawyer chapters are also educating and mobilizing voters about down ballot races, including state judicial races in states that have them. In a year when so many people will be voting abortion rights, it’s imperative that voters understand the link between judicial races and the state of abortion rights in their states.

We cannot say it enough – make sure you vote your full ballot! So many of the races that rarely get headline attention have enormous impact on our lives, including our voting rights and on abortion rights. This includes state attorneys general, secretaries of state, district attorneys, and state court judges. All of these positions are elected in many states. When you go to vote this November, make sure you vote in these races if they are on the ballot in your state.

Now is an excellent time to research candidates and figure out where your candidates stand on issues like voting rights, abortion rights, and election security. And it is not too early to engage your friends about these down ballot races and the importance of voting in all races.

I believe Dobbs will be overturned, but it is going to take time, likely years. In the interim, state court judges and other state officials will be instrumental in upholding abortion rights and in countering efforts to criminalize patients and providers for providing essential healthcare.

The vote to defeat a constitutional amendment that would have removed state abortion rights in Kansas was inspiring and indicative of the broad support in this country for abortion rights. What was most encouraging out of Kansas was the incredible voter turnout! While there may not be similar referenda in every state this November, abortion is absolutely on the ballot in every single state. Vote abortion rights!