The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee set aside common decency and its own longstanding traditions and rules when it voted to approve Donald Trump’s nomination of Michael Brennan to fill the “Wisconsin seat” on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He is the wrong nominee for a lifetime court appointment, and Trump and his Senate Republican enablers are using the wrong process in ramming through Brennan's nomination.
State and national advocates for a fair judiciary have raised red flags about the views of Michael Brennan. At One Wisconsin Institute, we have shown how Brennan’s work on Gov. Scott Walker’s judicial selection committee provides a troubling view of the kind of people Brennan viewed as qualified to be judges.
As the head of that committee, Michael Brennan thought Rebecca Bradley, with her virulent homophobia, antipathy to women who were the victims of date rape, and opposition to legal contraception, and Daniel Kelly, who wrote comparing affirmative action to slavery, were qualified for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Anyone who thinks people like that are qualified to be state high court justices has no business being considered for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.
The courts are where citizens turn to protect their rights and ensure everyone is treated equally by the law. Trust in their ability to fairly and impartially carry out their functions are critical to a well-functioning democracy. But, according to Michele Jawando, vice president of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress, Brennan’s appointment to a lifetime seat on the federal judiciary is part of a corrosive trend that undermines trust in the judiciary and hampers the ability of the courts to act as a check on Congress and the president and ensure equal justice for all.
Jawando notes that the slate of overwhelmingly white and male nominees, devoid of representation from certain groups, shows how Donald Trump is trying to flood the judiciary with unqualified and unrepresentative nominees. Brennan’s nomination is just one example of this.
Especially considering our current landscape, the Senate needs to oppose nominees that weaken protections against sexual harassment and sexual assault and threaten all Americans’ civil rights.
Not only are Brennan’s views troubling, the process by which he was nominated and rammed through committee is cause for concern.
The seat was open for Trump to fill because Republican Sen. Ron Johnson had obstructed consideration of previous nominees since 2011. Then, Brennan’s nomination was made in violation of the bipartisan judicial selection process Wisconsin senators of both parties have observed since the 1970s.
Finally, his hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary was scheduled without the consent of both of the state’s U.S. senators, an affront of a long-established process designed to foster bipartisan consideration of lifetime nominees to the federal judiciary.
As our colleague Matt Sinovic of Progress Iowa noted, this twists the Judiciary Committee into a partisan, political playground, when it has historically been an independent check on the president's judicial nominees. The result is that the courts will become more political at a time when we need them to be fair and impartial.
The red flags about Brennan and his views, and the over-the-top partisanship that paved the way for him to be on the precipice of a lifetime seat on the federal bench, ought to sink this nomination.
Analiese Eicher is the program director for One Wisconsin Institute and a member of the national Why Courts Matter coalition.
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