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Why Courts Matter Iowa Urges Senate Judiciary Committee to Reject Leonard Steven Grasz’s Nomination

Why Courts Matter Iowa Urges Senate Judiciary Committee to Reject Leonard Steven Grasz’s Nomination

On October 30, representatives of the American Bar Association released a statement unanimously deeming federal judicial nominee Leonard Steven Grasz “not qualified”. Grasz is the third nominee since 1989 to receive this rating unanimously, and the previous two were not confirmed. If confirmed, Grasz would oversee Iowa from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals bench.

Today, representatives of the ABA will testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting about the rating. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley invited these representatives to testify before his committee votes on Grasz’s nomination.

Iowa Citizen Action Network Executive Director Sue Dinsdale, One Iowa Executive Director Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, Americans for Democratic Action Iowa Director Chris Schwartz, and Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic issued the following joint statement on behalf of Why Courts Matter Iowa in advance of today’s Judiciary Committee meeting:

 

“Leonard Steven Grasz has a long history of anti-LGBTQ stances that indicate he would not be able to decide cases fairly. He’s claimed the Supreme Court’s ruling declaring same-sex marriage constitutional ‘threatens freedom’, claimed that families of same-sex couples are ‘less optimal’ than families of heterosexual couples, and supports the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy according to Lambda Legal. Grasz is unqualified to serve on a federal court bench, and we urge Sen. Grassley and the Judiciary Committee to listen to the ABA and reject his nomination.”

 
 
Sen. Grassley has a history of trusting the ABA’s judgment. The ABA gave Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch its top “well-qualified” rating on March 9, 2017 before he was confirmed. Sen. Grassley responded positively to this rating in a statement, citing Former Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s assertion that the ABA is the “‘gold standard’ in evaluating federal judicial nominations.”

Will Grassley Rubber Stamp Trump Nominees?

Will Grassley Rubber Stamp Trump Nominees?

Senator Chuck Grassley has suggested in recent weeks that as Chair of the Judiciary Committee he may give more deference to blue-slips when it comes to district court nominations than circuit court nominations, inaccurately claiming that this has “historically” happened1. And there have also been suggestions2 from a variety of senators3 about their desire to move away from the blue-slip custom. Ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, has requested that the blue-slip process continue, with home-state Senators approving judicial nominees. Feinstein has further explained that blue-slips were used consistently for both district and circuit court nominees throughout the Obama administration4 under Democratic and Republican leadership.

The blue-slip process that allows home state Senators input and approval on judicial nominees is critical, as Senator Grassley has stated many times in the past (quoted below). Because of Senator Grassley’s newfound inconsistency on the blue-slip process — suggesting he may once again blow up the Senate rules for President Trump — and because an independent judiciary is more important than ever, we encourage his constituents and the media to hold the Senator to his past public support of the blue-slip, and ask him the following questions.

In a Des Moines Register column5 in April of 2015, Senator Grassley complimented his Democratic counterpart, Senator Leahy, who even used the blue-slip process when those in his own party wanted it to end:

“For nearly a century, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has brought nominees up for committee consideration only after both home-state senators have signed and returned what’s known as a “blue slip.” This tradition is designed to encourage outstanding nominees and consensus between the White House and home-state senators. Over the years, Judiciary Committee chairs of both parties have upheld a blue-slip process, including Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, my immediate predecessor in chairing the committee, who steadfastly honored the tradition even as some in his own party called for its demise. I appreciate the value of the blue-slip process and also intend to honor it.”

 

Question for Senator Grassley: Will you stand up to those in your own party who want the blue-slip process to end, as Senator Leahy did?

On at least two occasions, Senator Grassley discouraged Congress from acting as a “rubber stamp” for the President’s proposals, including lifetime appointments to the federal Judiciary:

In a July 2011 floor statement6, Senator Grassley stated that “lifetime appointments are too important to the federal Judiciary and the American people to simply rubber-stamp them.”

And in March of 2016, Senator Grassley stated7 that “Although the President would like Congress to rubber stamp every proposal he suggests, that’s not the way our separation of powers works.”

 

Question for Senator Grassley: Will you continue the use of the blue-slip process for circuit and district court nominations, or will you allow President Trump to override home-state Senators, turning the Judiciary Committee into a rubber stamp for his nominees?

In April of 2009, Senator Grassley signed a letter8 to President Obama, along with every Republican in the U.S. Senate at the time, in support of the blue-slip process and deference to home-state Senators for nominees within their state:

“We hope your Administration will consult with us as it considers possible nominations to the federal courts from our states.  Regretfully, if we are not consulted on, and approve of, a nominee from our states, the Republican Conference will be unable to support moving forward on that nominee.  Despite press reports that the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee now may be considering changing the Committee’s practice of observing senatorial courtesy, we, as a Conference, expect it to be observed, even-handedly and regardless of party affiliation.  And we will act to preserve this principle and the rights of our colleagues if it is not.”

 

Question for Senator Grassley: Will your actions now as Chair of the Judiciary be consistent with the letter you signed in 2009, and your other past statements, applying the blue-slip process even handedly and regardless of party affiliation?

Notes/Background

(1) Roll Call, 5/11/17, Grassley Signals Deference to White House on Circuit Judges http://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/grassley-shows-flexibility-blue-slips-appellate-vacancy
(2) The Hill, 5/20/17, GOP talks of narrowing ‘blue-slip rule’ for judges http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/334296-gop-talks-of-narrowing-blue-slip-rule-for-judges
(3) The Washington Post, 5/25/17, Senate Republicans likely to change custom that allows Democrats to block judicial choices https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/senate-republicans-consider-changing-custom-that-allows-democrats-to-block-judicial-choices/2017/05/25/d49ea61a-40b1-11e7-9869-bac8b446820a_story.html
(4) Washington Times, 5/24/17 Feinstein demands GOP follow ‘blue slip’ tradition for Trump’s nominees http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/may/24/dianne-feinstein-demands-gop-follow-blue-slip-trad/
(5) Des Moines Register, 4/14/15, Working to secure Iowa’s judicial legacy http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2015/04/15/working-secure-iowas-judicial-legacy/25801515/
(6) Sen. Grassley Floor Statement, 10/13/11, Seeking Quality, Not Quantity https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/seeking-quality-not-quantity
(7) Sen. Grassley Answer, 3/29/16, Q&A: Senate Judiciary Committee https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/commentary/qa-senate-judiciary-committee
(8) Senate Republican Conference, 3/2/09, Letter to the President on Judges https://www.republican.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/blog?ID=3C522434-76E5-448E-9EAD-1EC214B881AC

Grassley, Senate Republicans Changed the Rules Because They Had No Other Way to Win

Grassley, Senate Republicans Changed the Rules Because They Had No Other Way to Win

‘Nuclear Option’ Ensures Only Partisan Consideration of Supreme Court Nominees

The Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Senate changing the filibuster rules to ensure the confirmation of President Trump’s nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, to the U.S. Supreme Court:

“Senator Grassley and Republicans in the Senate just ensured that the Supreme Court will be far more partisan and political than at any time in our country’s history, after voting to end the filibuster for Judge Gorsuch and future nominees. The so-called ‘nuclear option’ completes the partisan hatchet job on the independence of the judiciary that began last year when Grassley and Republicans engaged in unprecedented obstruction of Merrick Garland’s nomination.”

“Working side by side, President Trump, Senator Grassley, and Senate Republicans have undermined the U.S. Senate, an American institution. And their vote today undermines the independence of our highest court in the land.”

“This move to further politicize the judiciary is unfortunate, and it did not have to come to this. Republicans made a choice to strip away more than two centuries of Senate tradition. If they truly cared about bipartisanship, they would have worked across the aisle to put forward a consensus nominee who could receive the 60 votes that 25 of the past 26 justices have earned.”

“President Trump, Senator Grassley, and Senate Republicans won their vote today, but the American people lost. A judge who does not believe in protecting the constitutional rights of every citizen will be given a lifetime appointment because of a partisan vote. That’s not what we expect from our judiciary, or from our Senators, and we deserve far better.”

What else don’t we know about Neil Gorsuch?

What else don’t we know about Neil Gorsuch?

Plagiarism accusations unearthed after Gorsuch gave “cagey answers” to “softball” questions at Senator Grassley’s cakewalk Judiciary Committee hearing

Iowans are speaking out, and wondering what else they don’t know about Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch after accusations of past plagiarism were revealed in recent days. This type of background information would normally be unearthed during the Judiciary Committee hearing, but Senator Chuck Grassley has also received criticism for holding hearings that have been described as a cakewalk, with the Senator himself asking softball questions.

“As the Senate steamrolls toward confirming Judge Gorsuch, what else don’t we know?” asked Matt Sinovic, member of the Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition. “Plagiarism charges, cagey answers to questions, and being appointed by a President under investigation for ties to Russia are just too much. It’s time to pause this nomination, until we know more about Judge Gorsuch than Senator Grassley’s softball hearings uncovered.”

“All but one of the current Supreme Court Justices received at least 60 votes,” said Chris Schwartz, Black Hawk County Supervisor and Why Courts Matter Iowa member. “As Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said, in the Senate it takes 60 votes on controversial matters. Now Senator Grassley and the Republican majority are considering changing the rules of the game because they don’t have the votes for President Trump’s nominee. That’s not how the Senate is supposed to work.”

The United States Senate is expected to vote on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch by the end of the week, after the Judiciary Committee moved his nomination forward on a party line vote Monday.

Additional Information:

Gorsuch’s writings borrow from other authors
https://secure.politico.com/story/2017/04/gorsuch-writings-supreme-court-236891

The Empty Supreme Court Nomination Hearing
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/30/opinion/the-empty-supreme-court-confirmation-hearing.html?_r=0

2 Democratic Senators Say Neil Gorsuch Refused To Meet With Them
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/neil-gorsuch-senate-democrats_us_58de7fc8e4b0ba3595948896

Gorsuch remains cagey in written answers to Senate
https://secure.politico.com/story/2017/03/neil-gorsuch-democrat-senate-questions-236713

Grassley Rejects Invite to Town Halls on Supreme Court Nomination

Grassley Rejects Invite to Town Halls on Supreme Court Nomination

Public Forums To Be Held In Cedar Falls And Des Moines, In Counties Grassley Normally Avoids For Public Meetings

The Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition will host two public town hall forums this week to discuss the upcoming Senate hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch. The group has invited Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley to attend and help explain why he is fast-tracking this nomination when he did not act upon the previous President’s Supreme Court nominee.

The two forums will be held in Des Moines and Cedar Falls, in two counties that Grassley routinely avoids public meetings in during his 99 County Tour.

The Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition released the following statement in advance of their town hall meetings, after learning that Senator Grassley has declined their invitation:

“The nomination to the Supreme Court of the far-right Judge Gorsuch by President Trump is very unsettling for many Americans. Judge Gorsuch is anything but mainstream, having ruled against women’s rights and that corporations are people. Senator Grassley seems very eager to quickly move forward on Trump’s nominee, and we wonder where this newfound energy has come from for the Senator who obstructed the previous nominee for the seat for an unprecedented 293 days last year.”

“We have also been concerned that Senator Grassley isn’t hearing from his constituents in large Iowa counties, so we are disappointed he rejected this opportunity to see them at our forums. We will keep a seat open for him if his schedule allows a public meeting in Black Hawk or Polk county for the first time in more than 6 years.”

Here are the details of the two town hall meetings:

Public Town Hall Meeting – Black Hawk County
To Discuss the Supreme Court Vacancy
Wednesday, February 22nd, 7:30 – 8:30 PM
Cedar Falls Public Library; 524 Main Street, Cedar Falls, Iowa
Speakers: Gunda Brost, Immigration Attorney; Chris Schwartz, Black Hawk County Supervisor

Public Town Hall Meeting – Polk County
To Discuss the Supreme Court Vacancy
Thursday, February 23, 2017, 4:00 – 5:00 PM
Des Moines Central Library; 1000 Grand Ave, Des Moines, Iowa
Speakers: Sue Dinsdale, Executive Director, Iowa Citizen Action Network; Matt Sinovic, Executive Director, Progress Iowa; Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, Executive Director, One Iowa

 

New Website to answer the question: Is Chuck Grassley Doing His Job?

The Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition today launched a new site, IsChuckGrassleyDoingHisJob.com, in the ongoing effort to inform Iowans about Senator Grassley’s unprecedented obstruction of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. On a daily basis, the site will provide up to date research detailing whether Senator Grassley is doing his job as Senate Judiciary Chair, or whether he continues to fail to hold a hearing in his committee.

“Iowans are frustrated with Senator Grassley’s unprecedented obstruction and deserve to know whether he’s doing his job,” said Chris Schwartz, state director of Americans for Democratic Action – Iowa and Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition member. “IsChuckGrassleyDoingHisJob.com will provide accurate and up to date information about whether Senator is listening to the will of the people, who want to move the process forward, or whether he will still refuse to do his job.”

According to the Senate Historian, no Supreme Court nominee has ever been denied a confirmation hearing unless the nominee voluntarily withdrew from consideration. It has been 48 days since President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. By comparison, when Scalia was nominated, his hearings began 42 days after his nomination; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s hearings began just 36 days after she was nominated.

The Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition is focused on ensuring that the federal judiciary is representative of America’s diverse population and ending the judicial vacancy crisis so that every American can have his or her day in court. Why Courts Matter Iowa is led by Iowa Citizen Action Network, Americans for Democratic Action Iowa, Progress Iowa, and One Iowa.

Additional information:

CNN: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1602/23/cg.02.html

“The Senate historian reports that no Supreme Court nominee has ever been denied a confirmation hearing, unless he or she has voluntarily withdrawn from consideration.”

Iowa Cafe to Serve Grassley #DoYourJob Breakfast Menu

 

Ritual Cafe in downtown Des Moines will rename its breakfast menu on Tuesday, April 12th, while Senator Chuck Grassley holds his breakfast with Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland. Click here to view the menu.

DES MOINES — Iowans hungering for Senator Grassley to do his job will find a full docket of breakfast items tomorrow at Ritual Cafe in downtown Des Moines. The locally owned restaurant will rename several of their breakfast items, for a ‘Grassley #DoYourJob Menu’ to be served at the same time Senator Grassley will have breakfast with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in Washington, D.C. The #DoYourJob Menu will feature Obstruction Oats, Advice and Consent Cappuccino, Constitution Quiche, along with a variety of other items.

The full menu can be found online by clicking here.

It has been 59 days since Justice Scalia passed away, creating a vacancy on the Supreme Court, and 26 days since President Obama announced the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. Senator Grassley has refused to hold a hearing for Garland in the Judiciary Committee, where he serves as Chair. This would be the first time that a Supreme Court nominee was refused a hearing.

“Iowans wake up every day, have breakfast, and do their job,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa and Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition member. “We don’t get to decide when to follow our job description, and Senator Grassley shouldn’t get to ignore the constitution and the precedent set by a century of hearings. We hope after his breakfast meeting with Judge Garland, Senator Grassley will stop serving up cold obstruction and start doing his job.”

Additional details for the Grassley #DoYourJob Breakfast:

WHO:           Why Courts Matter Iowa Coalition

                       Matt Sinovic, Executive Director, Progress Iowa             

WHAT:        Sen. Grassley #DoYourJob Breakfast

WHEN:        Tuesday, April 12, 7:00 – 10:00 AM

WHERE:      Ritual Cafe; 1301 Locust Street, Des Moines, Iowa

 

The Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition is focused on ensuring that the federal judiciary is representative of America’s diverse population and ending the judicial vacancy crisis so that every American can have his or her day in court. Why Courts Matter Iowa is led by Iowa Citizen Action Network, Americans for Democratic Action Iowa, Progress Iowa, and One Iowa. For more information visit www.whycourtsmatteriowa.org.

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Iowans to Travel to Washington, D.C., to Tell Senator Grassley: Do Your Job

www.WhyCourtsMatterIowa.org

April 4, 2016

Press Contact: Monica Biddix, 515-661-4586

ADVISORY: Iowans to Travel to Washington, D.C., to Tell Senator Grassley: Do Your Job

Leaders from Iowa Join Nationwide Effort to Urge Senators to Consider Nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland

Current and former elected officials, leaders of community organizations, and concerned citizens from Iowa will travel to Washington, D.C. tomorrow to deliver the message to their senators that they should act on the nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland by holding a hearing and a vote.

Those traveling from Iowa to Washington, D.C., will participate in meetings on Capitol Hill, a press conference and other activities aimed at telling the Senate to do its job on the Supreme Court nomination. They will hold a press conference at the Supreme Court at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning, April 5 and will take part in the daily count at the Supreme Court, marking each day that has passed since the nomination of Chief Judge Garland. They will hold the sign marking day 20.

WHAT:Iowans to Travel to Washington, D.C., to Tell Senator Grassley: #DoYourJob

WHO: Sally Pederson, Former Iowa Lt. Governor

Mike Walton, Scott County Attorney

Doug Bailey, Hamilton County Supervisor

Keith Uhl, Republican precinct committeeman, former Assistant U.S. Attorney

Ross Daniels, former staff for Senator Grassley

Mark Kende, Law Professor, Drake University

Matt Sinovic, Executive Director, Progress Iowa

Sue Dinsdale, Executive Director, ICAN

Chris Schwartz, Executive Director, ADA Iowa

Lance Coles, Veteran, Retired Postal Worker

WHEN: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 11 a.m.

Senate’s First Day Back in Session

WHERE: Supreme Court of the United States, One First Street NE

For additional details about the press conference and meetings scheduled in D.C. contact Benton Strong at BStrong@americanprogress.org

For more information about the #WeNeedNine campaign, visit www.WeNeedNine.org or follow on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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IOWANS TO DEMONSTRATE AT PRIVATE GRASSLEY EVENT

For Immediate Release: March 29, 2016
Contact: Monica Biddix, monica@progressiowa.org, (515) 661-4586

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30 at 9:45 AM: Iowans to Demonstrate at Closed-Door Grassley Event

Iowans will stand together and call for Senator Grassley to hold a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee for Judge Merrick Garland   

Carroll, Iowa —  On Wednesday, March 30 at 9:45 AM (Central Time) the Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition and volunteers will hold a demonstration near St. Anthony Regional Hospital immediately prior to a private event held by Senator Grassley. The coalition learned of the event as a result of its ‘Where is Chuck’ hotline and confirmed via local sources.

Constituents across Iowa have criticized Grassley since his controversial stance to hold off the Supreme Court nomination hearing until next year. Iowans have flooded state and local newspaper outlets calling for Grassley to “Do Your Job” and hold a hearing. In response, Grassley has scaled back the number of public events being held in Iowa while the Senate is in recess. Iowans want to let Grassley know that they will not be ignored. They want the 35 year incumbent Senator to know that he cannot hide from his constituents or duck their scrutiny.

Last week, Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition established, a “Where’s Chuck?” Hotline for tips on Grassley’s whereabouts and private events. Iowans across the state called the hotline and sent emails not only with information but frustration and anger. Iowans reported unfriendly interaction with Grassley staff and difficulty reaching anyone at any of Grassley’s offices. Why Courts Matter Iowa is holding a public demonstration to stand up for every Iowan who is disappointed in Grassley and his obstruction.

WHO: Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition members and volunteers

WHAT:   Iowans demonstrating against Sen. Grassley’s Supreme Court obstruction  

WHEN:  Wednesday, March 30, 9:45 AM (Central Time)

WHERE: The public sidewalk at the corner of South Clark Street & Anthony Street
                  Near St. Anthony Regional Hospital; 311 S Clark St, Carroll, Iowa

The Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition is focused on ensuring that the federal judiciary is representative of America’s diverse population and ending the judicial vacancy crisis so that every American can have his or her day in court. Why Courts Matter Iowa is affiliated with the Why Courts Matter coalition, and is led by Iowa Citizen Action Network, Americans for Democratic Action Iowa, Progress Iowa, and One Iowa. For more information visit www.whycourtsmatteriowa.org.

 

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Iowans are asking: Where is Chuck Grassley?

Why Courts Matter Iowa asks Iowans to call the ‘Where is Chuck’ hotline at (515) 421-8997 due to Senator Grassley’s lack of events being held during the state work period, as well as rumors of numerous unpublicized private events.

The Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition today asked Iowans to aid and assist in finding the whereabouts of Senator Chuck Grassley. The coalition’s request for Iowans to call the ‘Where is Chuck’ hotline at 515-421-8997 is in reaction to the zero public events being held by the Senator during the first week of his state work period, the unusually low total of just 3 events in his 15 days working in the state, and widespread rumors of unpublicized events being held by the Senator in order to avoid his constituents.

“This week the Senator known for the ‘full Grassley’ appears to be running on empty,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa and Why Courts Iowa coalition member. “It’s disappointing that Senator Grassley is holding so few public events, instead choosing to have private gatherings and closed-door meetings. Iowans are frustrated with his obstruction of the Supreme Court, but he has always met us face to face to discuss the issues of the day, instead of playing hide and go seek.”

“We are calling on all Iowans to assist us in locating Senator Grassley, and inform us of any of his private events,” said Chris Schwartz, state director of Americans for Democratic Action Iowa and Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition member. “Iowans have a right to speak with their Senator, and we will publicize the details of any event we discover and confirm through our network across the state. We encourage Iowans of all political parties to join us in this effort, as responsiveness to constituents should not be a partisan issue.”

Why Courts Matter Iowa has established a ‘Where is Chuck’ hotline at 515-421-8997 for Iowans to call and relay details of any private events the Senator is holding during his state work period, as well as an email address: whereischuck@whycourtsmatteriowa.org.