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Judicial Advocates Raise Red Flags on Eve of U.S. Senate Hearing on Nomination of Michael Brennan to 7th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals

Partisan Politics Trumps Choosing Qualified Nominee for Lifetime Appointment to Federal Judiciary

MADISON, Wis. — In a call with the media today, state and national advocates raised red flags about both the views of Michael Brennan and the process by which he was nominated for a lifetime appointment to the 7th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals. Brennan’s nomination by Donald Trump ignored the bipartisan judicial selection process Wisconsin Senators of both parties have observed since the 1970s, and his hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary was scheduled without the consent of both of the state’s U.S. Senators.

Analiese Eicher, Program Director for One Wisconsin Institute, noted that Brennan’s work on Gov. Scott Walker’s judicial selection committee provided a troubling view of the kind of people he viewed as qualified to be judges.

“As the head of Scott Walker’s judicial selection committee, Michael Brennan thought Rebecca Bradley with her virulent homophobia, antipathy to women who were the victims and date rape and opposition to legal contraception and Daniel Kelly, who wrote comparing affirmative action to slavery were qualified for the Wisconsin Supreme Court,” said Eicher. “Anyone who thinks people like that are qualified to be state high court justices has no business being considered for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.”

The process by which Brennan is being considered by the U.S. Senate is also an affront of a long established process designed to foster bipartisan consideration of lifetime nominees to the federal judiciary.

Matt Sinovic of Progress Iowa noted, “Senator Grassley has twisted the Judiciary Committee into his own partisan, political playground, when it has historically been an independent check on the President’s judicial nominees.

He added, “Ignoring the opposition of home state Senators for a nominee is something Grassley promised he would not do, and now he has broken that promise. The blue slip process where Senators must offer their support for judicial nominees from their state is intended to prevent a wholly unqualified nominee like Brennan from moving forward. Without that important process in place, the courts will become more political at a time when we need them to be fair and impartial.”

The courts are where citizens turn to protect their rights and ensure everyone is treated equally by the law. Trust in their ability to fairly and impartially carry out their functions are critical to a well functioning democracy. But, according to Michele Jawando, Vice President of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress, Brennan’s appointment to a lifetime seat on the federal judiciary is part of a corrosive trend that undermines trust in the judiciary and hampers the ability of court to act as a check on Congress and the President and ensure equal justice for all.

Jawando concluded, “With a slate of overwhelmingly white and male nominees, devoid of representation from certain groups, it is clear that President Trump is trying to flood the judiciary with unqualified and unrepresentative nominees. Michael Brennan’s nomination is just one example of this. Especially considering our current landscape, the Senate needs to oppose nominees that weaken protections against sexual harassment and sexual assault and threaten all Americans’ civil rights.

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One Wisconsin Institute is a non-partisan, progressive research and education organization dedicated to a Wisconsin with equal economic opportunity for all.
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