Sanders says Democrats should do the "same thing" as right-wing Federalist Society in nominating federal judges
By Audrey McNamara, Cara Korte
/ CBS News
At a forum by an abortion rights group in New Hampshire on Saturday, Bernie Sanders urged the Democratic Party to take a note from Republicans with regards to nominating federal judges. Sanders said National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) forum that conservatives have been successful at securing judges because they cultivate them from the ground up — and liberals should too.
When asked why Democrats aren't as successful as Republicans in nominating federal judges, Sanders pointed to the Federalist Society. The powerful right-wing legal organization has long-championed conservative judges, and was utilized by President Trump to nominate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh's confirmation made him the fifth Justice with ties to the Federalist Society, out of just nine seats on the court, according to Politico.
Sanders said Mr. Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were "ready to go on day one" with Federalist Society-approved "right-wing" judges.
"They have thought this through," he said of Republicans.
Sanders asked the audience, "You know what we do every day in the Senate?" then answered his own question: "We nominate right-wing judges."
"You got the Federalist Society, an extremely well-funded right wing group who works with young lawyers, nurtures them, takes them along, nominates them and gets them to the Supreme Court and to the circuit courts and the district court," Sanders said.
The Federalist Society began as a student group at Yale University in 1982. A 2018 Politico article titled, "The Weekend at Yale That Changed American Politics," catalogs how three young law students created arguably the most influential conservative legal group in the country. Politico reporter Michael Kruse told CBS News in 2018 that the liberal equivalent, The American Constitution Society, founded in 2001, has never gained the same extent of influence.
Sanders on Saturday said Democrats have to start "taking a look at good young legal minds all over this country and cultivating them to the courts."
"We can learn some lessons from what the right wing is doing in this country," he said. "Republicans have been effective in politicizing the judiciary in a way Democrats have not."
Sanders also elaborated on concepts he's spoken about before regarding the highest court in the country. He said he's against packing the Supreme Court, and supports the idea of having a rotation of judges.
"What the Supreme Court says is that a federal judge has a lifetime appointment. Doesn't say that that lifetime appointment has got to be on the Supreme Court, it has to be on a federal court," Sanders said. "And there are some minds out there, legal scholars, who think you can rotate judges out of the Supreme Court to the circuit courts or the district courts, that is something I certainly will look at."
At Friday's Democratic debate, Sanders said he would have a litmus test on abortion for his Supreme Court picks.
"I will never nominate any person to the Supreme Court or the federal courts in general who is not 100% pro-Roe v. Wade," he said.
First published on February 8, 2020 / 6:02 PM
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