Photo Credit: Matt Roth for the League of Conservation Voters

Check President Trump

By Desiree Tims, Judiciary Program Director at the League of Conservation Voters

Each U.S. president is constitutionally authorized to appoint federal judges to benches in courthouses across the country, and Trump recently announced the nomination of ten lower-court judges who will serve long-term appointments. These nominations are just the beginning — over 100 judicial vacancies need filling, many of which are lifetime appointments, others of which are decade-long appointments. Regardless, Trump’s nominees stand to affect our judicial system for years to come.

Over and over again, the Trump White House has put polluter interests ahead of people — by undermining the Clean Water Rule, by dismantling the Clean Power Plan, by threatening the monuments that tell our nation’s diverse history. While the executive branch continues to disadvantage our communities, like Flint and East Chicago, putting their clean air and water at risk, we are concerned that Trump’s judicial appointees are likely to side with polluters, prolonging these injustices rather than upholding an independent and fair judicial system — this is deeply troubling.

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to confirm or deny toxic nominees, John K. Bush and Damien Schiff. If confirmed by the Senate, John K. Bush will serve a lifetime appointment. Schiff, on the other hand, will have a fifteen-year appointment, and if past is prologue, that post will be 15 years of favoring polluters over people.

Some of the 22 judicial nominees for lower courts have egregious views regarding clean air, water, and common sense public health safeguards. This is especially true of Damien Schiff, who Trump nominated to serve on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and is an attorney with Pacific Legal, which lists the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act as his special practice areas.

In 2012, Schiff litigated against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — and won. In his effort to protect landowners at grave costs to our public health and environment, the ruling in this case ultimately undermined federal safeguards that protect us from polluted water.

Furthermore, in 2017, Schiff authored an article arguing for judicial review reform for environmental decision-making, which would threaten the progress achieved on environmental safeguards. And lastly, on the Lou Dobbs show, Schiff stated that “[the] problem with the [EPA] across the board [is] treating American citizens as if the[y] were not American citizens, [but] as if they were [sic] slaves.” Over and over, Schiff has demonstrated prejudice against the EPA, suggesting this ideologue struggles to be the type of independent jurist we need in our judicial system.

On June 14, 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing for both nominees, Damien Schiff and John K. Bush. Bush of Kentucky, who will fill a seat on the U.S. Sixth Circuit, is also outside the mainstream. He shared with the Senate Judiciary Committee that he blogs under the pen name G. Morris for Elephants in the Bluegrass. When questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 14, 2017, Bush concluded that his blogging was merely “political activity.” Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) asked Bush if impartiality as a judge was an “absolute expectation” or “aspirational” to which Bush responded “aspirational.”

The judges nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate will impact the issues we care about most, including public health and voting rights. We must raise our voices to let our senators know we care about the bench. We want qualified judges, who are independent of the president, principled and fair. We must resist any poor decisions coming out of the White House that threaten our democracy, our environment, and our access to justice. We must tell our senators, check the president — the Constitution requires it.

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