April 24, 2018

Warren Delivers Speech Opposing Stuart Kyle Duncan for Fifth Circuit Judgeship

"Time and again, Mr. Duncan has been on the wrong side of justice, working to undermine the civil rights of groups that have historically faced discrimination."

Video (YouTube)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today delivered a speech on the Senate floor opposing the nomination of Stuart Kyle Duncan to serve on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  In her remarks, Senator Warren highlighted Mr. Duncan's lengthy record of supporting discrimination and injustice against women, people of color, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ community.  Expressing concern over Mr. Duncan's civil rights record and ability to dispense equal justice under the law, Senator Warren urged her colleagues to reject his confirmation.

The full text of her remarks is available below.

Remarks by Senator Elizabeth Warren
April 24, 2018

Thank you, Mr. President.  It is no secret that powerful interests are working to undermine our government.  Giant companies and right-wing billionaires have been pouring unlimited sums of money into making sure our government works for those at the top and leaves everyone else behind. And a key part of their strategy is to capture our courts.

During the Obama Administration, those powerful interests and their Republican allies in Congress executed an unprecedented campaign to stop fair-minded, impartial nominees from filling judicial vacancies.  Nominees weren't blocked because they were unqualified. They weren't blocked because they were inexperienced. They weren't blocked because they were out of the mainstream.

They were blocked for one reason and one reason alone: because they didn't demonstrate a sufficient willingness to bend the law in favor of the rich and the powerful.

With Donald Trump as President, these same interests sense a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape our courts for years to come, and they are working to stack our courts with narrow-minded elitists and right-wing radicals.

Stuart Kyle Duncan-President Trump's nominee to sit on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals-is one of those nominees. Mr. Duncan has spent his career working to restrict - not expand, but to restrict - civil rights in the United States. Over and over again, he's sought to tilt the scales of justice against women, against LGBTQ Americans, against people of color, and others. 

Mr. Duncan's record of supporting discrimination and injustice is quite lengthy, so I'll focus on just a few of the most disturbing examples.

Let's start with his record on women's rights.

Mr. Duncan has worked to make it harder for women to access contraceptive coverage and abortion services.  He was the lead attorney to the arts and crafts company Hobby Lobby in the Supreme Court case Hobby Lobby v. Burwell.  In that case, he argued that business owners should be allowed to refuse to provide female employees access to contraceptive care based on those employers' religious views.

Mr. Duncan also filed briefs in many other Supreme Court cases, petitioning the Court to restrict women's access to birth control and abortion services, ignoring the fact that access to contraceptive care can help women lead better, healthier, or more financially secure lives. That is the man who is seeking a federal judgeship.

Let's take a look at his record on LGBTQ rights.

Mr. Duncan has complained about what he calls the "general acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual practices" in America, and he's worked very hard to convince courts to adopt his narrow-minded view of the world.

In the landmark Supreme Court cases legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, Mr. Duncan filed briefs asking the Court to reach the opposite result. And after the Supreme Court handed down those historic decisions, Mr. Duncan - who today expects to be confirmed as a federal appellate judge - claimed that the decision would jeopardize civic peace and openly questioned the Supreme Court's legitimacy.

Mr. Duncan also represented the Gloucester County School Board in its effort to deny Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school boy, the ability to use the boy's bathroom, and he represented North Carolina's General Assembly in a lawsuit challenging the Assembly's bathroom bill banning transgender and gender non-conforming individuals from using restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

In asking courts to allow government-sanctioned discrimination in these cases, Mr. Duncan completely ignored scientific evidence and medical expertise, instead asserting that transgender individuals are mentally ill. In one case, he argued that there is no sound scientific evidence proving that individuals who identify as transgender are not delusional.

In case after case, Mr. Duncan has defended discrimination and injustice.

  • On voting rights, he defended North Carolina's discriminatory voter ID law that a federal court concluded targeted African American voters with almost "surgical precision."
  • On immigration, he filed briefs opposing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, which allowed Dreamers to contribute to our schools, our community and our economy without constant fear of deportation.
  • On criminal justice, he fought to block retroactive application of the Supreme Court decision ruling that it is unconstitutional to sentence kids to life without parole.

Time and again, Mr. Duncan has been on the wrong side of justice, working to undermine the civil rights of groups that have historically faced discrimination.

Federal judges have one job and one job only: to dispense equal justice under law. And that means everyone-man or woman, gay or straight, black or brown or white-everyone- should have confidence that the judges we hand lifetime appointments to will put fairness and fidelity to the law over personal feelings or political ideologies.

Stuart Kyle Duncan has made it perfectly clear that he cannot and will not meet that standard. That's why I will be voting to reject Mr. Duncan's nomination, and I urge every Senator who believes in the principle of equal justice under law to do the same.