March 14, 2016

The ironically-named "Judicial Crisis Network" has launched an all-out opposition research and smear effort to kill President Obama's Supreme Court nominees before he ever names them. This organization was originally named the Judicial Confirmation Network, and was created to ram through Bush nominees when he was President, and renamed after President Obama was elected.

The ad at the top ran yesterday during the Sunday shows, taking aim at Jane Kelly, the Iowa judge who Senator Chuck Grassley said he would look at if she was the nominee.


A conservative advocacy group called the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) reportedly hired “a team of about 10 researchers, including a number of lawyers” to conduct opposition research into potential nominees.

Viewers watching Sunday morning’s news shows got a taste of what these researchers have uncovered this past weekend. An ad funded by JCN attacked federal appellate Judge Jane Kelly, a potential Supreme Court nominee and former public defender, for representing one of her former clients:

Apparently if one is a defense attorney, they're supposed to refuse to defend people accused of heinous crimes.

The inmate described in JCN’s ad is Casey Frederiksen, who Kelly represented in 2005 during her career as a public defender. Frederiksen is unquestionably a terrible human being. Kellyrepresented him in a federal child pornography trial after he was accused of possessing over 1,000 such images and movie clips. Years after his conviction on these child pornography charges, and while he was still serving prison time for this federal conviction, Frederiksen was arrested, tried and convicted of killing a 5 year-old girl. (Kelly did not represent Frederiksen in this state proceeding.)

In the United States, however, criminal trials are governed by the Constitution, and that Constitution guarantees all people accused of a crime “the assistance of counsel for his defense.” So JCN’s ad is more than just an attack on Jane Kelly. It is an attack on a constitutional right.

Mr. Frederiksen committed horrible offenses. But in this country, our Constitution does not permit the state’s awesome power to lock someone away in prison to be brought to bear upon anyone until they have received an adequate defense. Before becoming a judge, Kelly spent her career helping ensure that this oft-ignored right means something.

As ThinkProgress notes, Judge Kelly decided early in her career to give up the six-figure cushy lawyer job to protect the rights of people least able to afford it. And for her trouble, she's now the target of national smear campaign which will not only do grave harm to her personally, but will also harm the fundamental constitutional rights she defended.

Meanwhile the RNC, who has apparently conceded the Presidential race months ahead of time, is mounting a full-scale war as well.

Beyond the claim that Obama would be breaking with “decades of precedent” by offering a nominee — a claim that should be viewed with some skepticism for the reasons outlined by Politifact — the choice of words here is interesting. Republican operatives will “vet that person and put their real record on display.” Ideally, of course, this is what would happen if the Senate were to hold hearings on that person. But that might afford the nominee a chance to directly respond to his or her Republican cross-examiners in a high profile setting (as opposed to only having Democratic groups mount all the pushback, which of course they will also do, once there is a nominee). Direct exchanges between the nominee and Republican Senators, alas, might reflect well on that person. And so the only “vetting” and examination of the nominee’s “real record” will be undertaken through the RNC and associated GOP-aligned groups.

That’s not meant as sarcasm. It’s the actual Republican party-wide position right now. Remember, Senate Republicans themselves have told reporters that they don’t want to hold hearings explicitly because it would risk drawing the wrong kind of media attention to the nominee, thus making it harder politically for GOP Senators — particularly vulnerable incumbents facing reelection in states carried by Obama — to oppose that person later. As CNN reported last month, Senate Republicans are holding off on any hearings, because...

So the plan is for them to use a Kochtopus organization to dig up dirt, then run public smears of every possible nominee so they can continue to refuse to hold official hearings and actually do their jobs.

I hope they all crash and burn spectacularly in November. Every last damn one of them.

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