Rob Portman: Say NO to Neil Gorsuch

Help the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus and Cleveland Indivisible send some love to Portman on Valentines Day!

Well, not really. But they are using this as an opportunity to make sure Senator Portman knows his constituents DO NOT support Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.

Judge Neil Gorsuch has a record of denying relief to the most vulnerable and forgotten people in our country. Especially troubling are opinions that would roll back the rights of employees, children with disabilities, victims of police misconduct, and women who require contraception.

Our friends at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations committed to promote and protect civil and human rights, have outlined their gravest concerns for Gorsuch’s nomination:

Discrimination Claims: In a 2005 article published in the conservative National Review, Judge Gorsuch wrote: “American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education.  This overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary.”

Throughout our nation’s history, the federal courts have been a critical backstop in ensuring the rights and liberties of all Americans.

In Strickland v. UPS., the court majority held that Carole Strickland, a UPS account executive, could proceed with a sex discrimination claim under Title VII based on evidence that she was treated worse than male colleagues despite her outperforming them in sales. 

Workers’ Rights: Judge Gorsuch’s favorable treatment of employers and corporate defendants shows his disdain for workers’ rights. He often provides a dissenting voice in such cases. In Compass Environmental, Inc. v. OSHRC, 4 the majority held that the employer must pay a fine for disregarding an internal policy and failing to train a worker who was electrocuted to death because he was not properly trained about the  danger posed by high-voltage lines. Judge Gorsuch issued a dissent and voted to throw the case out of court because he didn’t believe the employer was negligent.

In NLRB v. Community Health Services, Inc. Judge Gorsuch dissented from a majority opinion that found in favor of employees, where a hospital was required to award back pay to 13 employees whose hours had been reduced in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

Women’s Health: Through both landmark anti-discrimination legislation and seminal Supreme Court decisions, it has long been established that religion cannot be used to justify discrimination in the marketplace. But in the case Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius,  Judge Gorsuch signed on to an opinion  that held corporations are people exercising religious rights and therefore did not have to comply with the Affordable Care Act requirement that all employee health insurance plans include contraceptive coverage. In Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell,  a similar case, he dissented because he disagreed with the majority decision that approved a reasonable accommodation for religious non-profits yet also allowed women to obtain contraceptive coverage through their insurance plans.

LGBT Rights: In his 2005 National Review article Judge Gorsuch expressed disdain for those seeking to use the courts to enforce their rights under the law, and he specifically criticized LGBT Americans who have relied on federal courts in their quest for equality.

Police Misconduct: In the case Wilson v. City of Lafayette, a 22-year-old man possessing marijuana was fleeing arrest, and a police officer shot him in the head with a stun gun from  10-15 feet away. The police conduct was contrary to the department’s training manual. The young man, Ryan Wilson, died. Judge Gorsuch held that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity from an excessive force claim, because the use of force was justified because the young man was fleeing arrest. The dissent in this case criticized Judge Gorsuch’s analysis and stated: “In the present case, it would be unreasonable for an officer to fire a taser probe at Ryan Wilson’s head when he could have just as easily fired the probe into his back. The taser training materials note that officers should not aim at the head or throat unless the situation dictates a higher level of injury risk.

Students with Disabilities: Judge Gorsuch has consistently ruled against students with disabilities seeking educational services to which they were entitled under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

In A.F. v. Espanola Public Schools, he dismissed a claim brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act because the school district had previously settled a lawsuit with the student for IDEA violations. A dissenting judge in this case criticized Judge Gorsuch’s reasoning this  way: “This was clearly not the intent of Congress and, ironically enough, harms the interests of the children that IDEA was intended to protect.”

Corporate Bias: Judge Gorsuch showed his corporate bias last year in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch when he issued a lengthy concurrence to an opinion he himself had written – a signal that his colleagues refused to sign on to his ideological agenda. In his concurrence, he questioned the constitutional legitimacy of a decades-old binding precedent, Chevron, U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.  The Chevron doctrine requires deference to federal agencies’ interpretation of ambiguous laws as long as the interpretation is reasonable, which has resulted in the safeguarding of workers’ rights, environmental protection, consumer protections, food safety, and many other protections for people’s health and well-being. Judge Gorsuch believes that judges should make these decision s instead of agencies with the relevant expertise.

Money in Politics: For four decades, the Supreme Court’s flawed approach to money in politics has gutted common sense protections against the power of special interests and wealthy individuals – most recently in Citizens United and McCutcheon v. FEC  – that has shaped a system that 85% of Americans believe needs fundamental change. In his only opinion directly addressing money in politics, Judge Gorsuch expressed openness to providing a higher level of constitutional protection to a donor’s right to make political contributions than the Court currently affords the right to vote.

Environmental Protection: Judge Gorsuch’s rejection of the binding Chevron decision, which prevents judges from substituting their judgment for that of federal agencies with expertise, would undermine the enforcement of federal laws that protect our air, water, lands, and wildlife. In United States v. Nichols, he wrote a lengthy dissent that tried to revive an obscure legal doctrine that could strike down many significant environmental laws.

Voting Rights: In 2006, when he was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Judge Gorsuch stated in his Senate questionnaire that between June 2005 and July 2006, he served as the Principal Deputy to the Associate Attorney General, a job in which he managed several litigating components at the Justice Department, including the Civil Rights Division. On Gorsuch’s watch, political appointees ran roughshod over career attorneys who sought to lodge Section 5 objections under the Voting Rights Act to Georgia’s photo ID law. This disgraceful practice was exposed in a November 2005 Washington Post article: “A team of Justice Department lawyers and analysts who reviewed a Georgia voter-identification law recommended rejecting it because it was likely to discriminate against black voters, but they were overruled the next day by higher-ranking officials at Justice, according to department documents…. The plan was blocked on constitutional grounds in October by a U.S. District Judge, who compared the measure to a Jim Crow-era poll tax.”

Gorsuch should be questioned about his role in supervising the Georgia photo ID litigation and the extent to which he was involved in supporting the use of photo ID laws by Georgia and other states, and about his role in overturning the recommendations of career attorneys to object to such laws.

Politicized Hiring in Civil Rights Division: In addition, during the year in which Gorsuch helped manage the Civil Rights Division, political appointees there engaged in unlawful hiring discrimination against lawyers with liberal affiliations, and this became the subject of a 2008 Inspector General report entitled “An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring and Other Improper Personnel Actions in the Civil Rights Division.”

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Write your letter

If you are in the Cleveland area, please consider handwriting your letter and dropping off at one of the following locations:

  • Starbucks @ 12405 Cedar Rd. Cleveland Heights 44106 between 1 and 4 pm Sunday 

  • CCPC Office @ 11910 Detroit Ave. Lakewood 44107 ANYTIME via mail slot (you can also mail letters to the office ). All letters must be received BEFORE 9 AM FEBRUARY 14. 

Otherwise, please write a letter to Senator Portman voicing your opinion about the Supreme Court choice below. BE SURE to include a few questions so that his staff will have to take the time to respond. We will print out your letter, enclose in an envelope and deliver on your behalf. We need your letter by NOON on Monday, Feb. 13th.

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