Ahead of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings scheduled to start Monday, more than 5,000 lawyers issued an open letter Friday urging senators to "defend the lives and fundamental rights of all Americans" by refusing to confirm President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Congressional leaders and the White House have been locked in a political battle over the high court's empty seat since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September. Rights advocates have raised alarm about Barrett's "extreme ideology"—as the lawyers put it—since even before Trump officially announced her nomination.
The lawyers' letter (pdf), which features a quote from Ginsburg, was submitted to the Senate by Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG), a national network of attorneys committed to upholding human rights and equal justice for all, in partnership with the Alliance for Justice, an association of over 120 organizations.
"Senators and attorneys have a common duty; we both swear an oath to defend the United States Constitution," the letter says. "That oath, along with our deep commitment to preserving the rule of law and core tenets of our democracy, compels us to strongly urge you to vote against the confirmation."
Citing that oath, L4GG president Traci Feit Love said in a statement that "it is our duty to take a stand at this critical moment in our nation's history."
"The fundamental rights of hundreds of millions of Americans are at stake," she said. "Rushing to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett will cause irreparable damage to the public's faith in the Supreme Court, the rule of law, and our democracy."
— #L4GG (@lawyers4goodgov) October 6, 2020
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Noting the slate of vital issues and cases the next justice will likely weigh in on, the letter says that "we have fought to protect critical constitutional rights and legal protections, including for our democracy, for women, persons of color, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ Americans, immigrants, workers, consumers, and clean air and water."
Based on the record of Barrett, who clerked for the late right-wing Justice Antonin Scalia, "it seems clear that, if confirmed, she will vote to turn back the clock on scores of essential rights and protections in this country that are crucial to the lives of our clients and fellow Americans," the letter continues.
Rather than trying to push through Barrett in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and before Election Day—or, if Trump loses to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, during a lame-duck session—the lawyers charge that senators should instead focus on the health and economic needs of the nation. Recent polling shows three-quarters of Americans agree that the chamber should prioritize providing much-needed relief from the current crisis.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put the chamber in recess on Monday after three GOP senators and Trump tested positive for Covid-19, but both he and Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) remain committed to moving forward with hearings for Barrett next week. So far, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has done little more than make rhetorical demands of the chamber's Republicans that seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
"On Monday, McConnell said a Judiciary vote would likely happen by October 16," according to The Intercept. "The second is a floor vote, which McConnell has pledged to hold as quickly as possible after the nomination clears the committee. A floor vote is eyed for sometime around October 26."
Although the attorneys signed on to the letter are far from alone in calling on the Senate to reject Barrett—150 progressive groups sent a similar message to senators Tuesday—Alliance for Justice president Nan Aron noted that "it is virtually unprecedented for thousands of lawyers, from every state and a breadth of backgrounds, to unite in opposition to a Supreme Court nominee."
"As people who have devoted their careers to the pursuit of justice and upholding our Constitution, they have made clear that a vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett is a vote to strip away healthcare protections from millions, eviscerate protections for those with preexisting conditions, overturn Roe, and dismantle civil rights," Aron added. "The legal community is speaking out, and they are no doubt the tip of the iceberg."