Fair Courts E-Lert: Ad War Around SCOTUS Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Begins; Federal District Court in San Diego Adopts Mass Immigration Hearings

July 13, 2018


Ad War Around SCOTUS Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Begins

On Monday, President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to fill the seat vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Both liberal and conservative groups are already engaged in an expensive advertisement battle over Kavanaugh’s nomination. The Associated Press reported that the Judicial Crisis Network is “prepared to spend as much as $10 million” on a pro-Kavanaugh ad campaign, after spending $17 million to block Merrick Garland and support the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch. Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of JCN noted, “We will do what it takes.” Other conservative groups also intend to campaign for Kavanaugh, including America First Policies and Americans for Prosperity which have both prepared seven-figure campaigns to support Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Meanwhile, the liberal group Demand Justice has committed to spending $5 million in opposition to Kavanaugh, and according to USA Today, “is already airing ads pressing Collins and Murkowski to oppose Trump’s nominee.” NARAL Pro-Choice America also launched a six-figure ad campaign.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has promised that the Senate “will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall.”


Iowa Supreme Court Will No Longer Be Entirely Male

The Iowa Supreme Court is currently the only state in the country to have an all-male supreme court – but a woman will be replacing retiring Justice Bruce Zager on the court this fall. Nearly 70 percent of the applicants for the position were women, and after vetting and interviewing candidates, the state judicial nominating committee narrowed the field to three final candidates, all of whom are women. Gov. Kim Reynolds will choose Zager’s successor from the three recommended candidates.

Iowa has only had two female Supreme Court justices in its history, and has never appointed a person of color to the court. This week, former Iowa Chief Justice Marsha Ternus argued that a diverse bench, from demographics to education and upbringing, is critical, noting, “the whole idea of having appeals heard by a group of individuals is that you have seven individuals bringing diverse perspectives and knowledge to bear on an issue.” Ternus also said that, “The people are more inclined to give less credibility to the decision because they don’t feel that their perspective and their life experience is reflected in that decision-making process.”


Federal District Court in San Diego Adopts Mass Immigration Hearings

According to NBC San Diego, this week was the first time that fast-tracked group hearings for illegal border crossings took place in the federal district court in San Diego. Officials in California had long resisted implementing such a policy.

Such hearings are, according to The Los Angeles Times, “being modeled after others that have operated along the Southwest border for the last several years under the name Operation Streamline.” Operation Streamline was first introduced in Del Rio, Texas, and according to The Associated Press, soon “spread to every federal court district along the border except California, whose federal prosecutors argued that scarce resources could be better spent going after smuggling networks and repeat crossers with serious criminal histories.”

But after the Trump Administration implemented a zero-tolerance prosecution policy for unauthorized border crossings, federal courts in California received “an overwhelming amount of immigration caseloads,” and accordingly, have begun to hold group immigration hearings. While this move “puts California in line with other border states,” critics characterize the change as “assembly line justice” that violates due process.

The U.S. Attorney's office defended the change, commenting that the office is "committed to securing the border and enforcing criminal immigration laws in a way that respects due process and the dignity of all involved."


California Supreme Court Finds Courts Can’t Require Indigent Defendants to Pay for Court Reporters

Last week, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that litigants entitled to court filing fee waivers are also entitled to obtain a court reporter without charge.

In response to a reduced budget, the San Diego County Superior Court had a “cost-cutting policy of eliminating court reporters in civil cases, even for litigants with fee waivers.” According to Courthouse News Service, an indigent prisoner had sued a doctor, alleging medical malpractice, but after a decade-long litigation process, was not given a court reporter for his trial although he had a fee waiver. After he appealed the eventual ruling, the court found that “without such a record, it couldn’t reach the merits of Jameson’s argument that the trial court got it wrong.”

Ultimately, the California Supreme Court found that this rule violated the policy of equal access to justice embodied in California law, explaining, “The challenged court policy creates the type of restriction of meaningful access to the civil judicial process that the relevant California in forma pauperis precedents and legislative policy render impermissible.”

San Diego Superior Court Presiding Judge Peter Deddeh responded to the ruling, “We are currently reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision and will take all steps to implement it. Due to severe budget cuts over the past several years, our court was forced to make the difficult decision to remove court reporters from cases where their services were not legally mandated.”