Press Releases

Washington—Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today spoke at an executive business meeting to set the record straight on the blue-slip process and oppose John Bush’s nomination to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and Damien Schiff’s nomination to the Court of Federal Claims:

“With respect to the vote on the nominees today, I have a few comments to make about three of them. Kevin Newsom for the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals from Alabama. I intend to support Mr. Newsom for the Eleventh Circuit, but I need to make a point about blue slips first.

In February 2016, President Obama nominated U.S. District Court Judge Abdul Kallon for this very same vacancy on the Eleventh Circuit.

A few years earlier, Judge Kallon had been unanimously confirmed with the support of Senators Shelby and Sessions when he was nominated to the federal district court bench.

However, Judge Kallon did not receive a hearing in this committee last year because Senators Shelby and Sessions did not support his elevation to the circuit court and thus did not return their blue slips. That’s the prerogative of home state senators for judicial nominees from their states—including circuit court judges and it has existed for 100 years.

Now, Mr. Newsom will be voted on today because Senators Shelby and Strange returned blue slips for his nomination. That’s how the process works, and I don’t hold Mr. Newsom accountable for the senators’ decision not to return blue slips on Judge Kallon’s nomination.

But in recent days, the White House, the Koch brothers, and the Judicial Crisis Network—the same group that spent millions to confirm Justice Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and to block Judge Garland’s nomination—have suggested that the failure to quickly return blue slips is tantamount to wholesale obstruction of the p[resident’s nominees.

Let me be clear: Democratic senators are doing their due diligence in reviewing these nominees. There’s been no obstruction. Many of these nominees have voluminous records that home-state senators need to review – especially in circumstances where home-state senators were not meaningfully consulted before these nominees were chosen. And that goes for Democrats and Republicans.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s nominee Judge Kallon and three other circuit nominees waited nine, 10, up to 11 months for blue slips that never came, and there wasn’t a lot of concern by the Wall Street Journal editorial board, or the Judicial Crisis Network or the Koch brothers about those nominees. So I just want to correct that record on blue slips today.

I am not able to support Mr. Bush’s nomination to the Sixth Circuit or Mr. Schiff’s nomination to the Court of Federal Claims.

And let me explain my reasons why. Both of these nominees wrote personal blogs, as the chairman has referred to, where they expressed strident, provocative and in some cases deeply offensive opinions on a wide range of political and legal issues. If I were a litigant before them, I would not have the confidence that these individuals had the temperament or impartiality to serve as a federal judge. For example:

Mr. Bush wrote ‘the two greatest tragedies in our country—slavery and abortion—relied on similar reasoning and activist judges at the U.S. Supreme Court, first in the Dred Scott decision, and later in Roe.’

Mr. Bush wrote blog posts where he relied on extreme right-wing sources like World Net Daily, which were known for promoting discredited conspiracy theories including the ‘birther’ conspiracy that President Obama was not born in the United States. Mr. Bush wrote multiple blog posts where he emphasized President Obama’s ties to Kenya.

Mr. Schiff referred to Justice Kennedy as a ‘judicial prostitute,’ and accused Justice Kennedy of ‘selling his vote as it were to four other justices in exchange for the high that comes from aggrandizement of power and influence.’ Shocking.

Mr. Schiff also criticized a California school district’s proposed anti-bullying initiative for teaching that ‘homosexual families are the moral equivalent of traditional heterosexual families.’

Lastly, Mr. Schiff has repeatedly made clear his hostility to environmental laws that protect our clean air and clean water.

So it’s no wonder that we have heard from a significant number of organizations who oppose these two nominees.

A letter from Planned Parenthood, NARAL and other reproductive rights organizations said this about John Bush: ‘John Bush is a biased, bombastic and extreme nominee who lacks the necessary qualifications and the professional temperament to be appointed to a lifetime position on the federal bench.’

A letter from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund said this about John Bush: ‘Mr. Bush has proven himself to be a staunch opponent of civil rights and has expressed extremist views—often through incendiary rhetoric—that are antithetical to the principles of equal justice.’

A letter from Lambda Legal, Equality California, and other LGBT rights organizations said this about Damien Schiff: ‘Mr. Schiff has gone beyond merely disagreeing with the judicial precedents that serve as the foundation of the LGBT community’s legal security and progress, and has denigrated LGBT people in ways that suggest that he is simply incapable of administering the law with respect to LGBT people without bias or prejudgment.’

And a letter from the Natural Resources Defense Council said this about Damien Schiff: ‘Mr. Schiff’s writings frequently attack and denigrate environmental safeguards and the citizens and agencies that seek to enforce them. This perspective, combined with indications that he may bring an extremely rigid judicial philosophy to the court, raises serious questions about whether he will fairly assess cases involving public health and environmental protections.’

Mr. Chairman, I cannot support these nominees and I urge my colleagues to vote against their nomination as well.”