April 6, 2005
Senator Edward Kennedy
United States Senate
Dear Senator Kennedy:
I am deeply concerned that your comments, and those of certain of your colleagues, have helped create an environment of disrespect and hostility for the federal judiciary. For example, several years ago, you made a floor speech personally attacking President Ronald Reagan’s nominee to the United States Supreme Court, federal appellate judge Robert Bork. Among other things, you said:
Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, school children could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens of whom the judiciary is – and is often the only – protector of the individual rights that are at the heart of our democracy. (Senate floor speech, July, 1987,)
In attacking President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees, you said:
What has not ended is the resolution and determination of the members of the United States [Senate] to continue to resist any Neanderthal that is nominated by this president of the United States for any court, federal court in the United States. (Hannity & Colmes, November 14, 2003)
This kind of rhetoric demeans the judiciary and those who serve on the federal bench. Indeed, several of President Bush’s nominees to federal appellate courts are sitting judges on federal district and state courts, including Priscilla Owens, Janice Rogers Brown, and Charles Pickering, Sr.
I am also calling on you to publicly denounce venomous statements made by your colleagues against the judiciary.
For example, Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid said the following about Associate Justice Clarence Thomas:
I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. … (NBC Meet the Press, December 5, 2004)
When commenting on the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton assaulted the integrity of the Court when she said that the Supreme Court is “the same court that gave us Bush v. Gore, which made a mockery of one of the our most cherished constitutional rights, the right to vote.” Clinton added:
In addition to installing an American president, the current Supreme Court has invalidated federal laws at the most astounding rate in our nation’s history. (Associated Press, August 1, 2003)
Senator Charles Schumer said:
In a sense, [William Pryor is] the Frankenstein nominee – a stitching together of the worse parts of the worst nominees the president has sent us.
In addition to these ad hominen attacks on the Supreme Court and judicial
nominees – and there are many, many more – you are collaborating with organizations that brag to the media about establishing “war rooms” to destroy the reputations of nominees to the federal bench, especially the Supreme Court.
… People for the American Way has a war room with 50 work stations and plans to mobilize more than 1,000 groups against any Bush choice considered a threat to civil rights. (Associated Press, March 31, 2005)
Moreover, several memoranda memorializing communications between these
organizations with you and your colleagues expose detailed strategies for besmirching the character and thwarting the confirmation of numerous judicial nominees. (I am enclosing a copy of my book, Men In Black, for your reference. See Appendix at p. 213, in which these memoranda have been reproduced in full for easy reference.)
The effect of your strategy has been telling. For e