PEOPLE FOR BLOG

PA Passes ID Under Objections of 45 Groups and 13,000 Pennsylvanians

On Wednesday, in a 26-23 vote on HB 934, the Pennsylvania Senate passed photo ID. Having passed the House last June, it now goes to concurrence (final negotiations) and will soon reach Governor Corbett’s desk, where it’s expected to be signed into law. It’s important to note that the lead sponsor, Representative Daryl Metcalfe, is an ALEC member.

Protect Our Vote has taken a strong stand against photo ID in their state. Made up of 45 groups, the voting rights coalition recently held a rally at the state Capitol Rotunda, at which they unveiled a petition containing the signatures of 13,000 Pennsylvanians. Have you ever wondered what 13,000 signatures looks like?

It took 1,000 feet to display the strong opposition to photo ID. And voting rights supporters won’t stop there. There is already talk of lawsuits to challenge the (expected) new law.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

The War on Women in the Courts

The War on Women doesn't stop with reproductive rights. In a new post at Ms. Blog, People For's Marge Baker explains how GOP obstruction of judicial nominees is keeping women -- as well as people of color and gays and lesbians -- from reaching positions of power in the federal courts:

President Obama has made no secret of his goal to make the American courts look like America. Along with the effort to bring more women to the bench, roughly 36 percent of his nominees have been people of color, and he has nominated more openly lesbian and gay individuals to the federal courts than all his predecessors combined.

But the president’s effort to bring a diversity of voices to the federal courts is now facing a major roadblock. Senate Republicans have been obstructing President Obama’s judicial nominees to an unprecedented extent–usually not because of objections to the nominees themselves, but just for the sake of creating gridlock. Indeed, most of President Obama’s nominees have been approved by the Judiciary Committee with unanimous or near-unanimous bipartisan support. Nevertheless, after committee approval, Republicans in the Senate have forced the president’s nominees to wait four times longer to get a yes-or-no vote than President Bush’s nominees at the same point in his term.

As a result, about one out of ten courtrooms in the country are vacant and Americans are facing inexcusable delays as they seek their day in court. One of President Obama’s least-noticed but most long-lasting achievements–putting a qualified, diverse group of judges on our federal courts–has been put at risk.

Read the full post at Ms. Blog.

PFAW Foundation

Stop School Bullying Today

Following the increased media attention paid to bullying-related suicides in 2010, Senator Al Franken took a strong stand on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and those who are perceived to be LGBT. His Student Non-Discrimination Act (S. 555) protects them from school-based discrimination, much like Title IX does for gender discrimination, and much like other areas of law do for various protected classes. It recognizes bullying and harassment as discrimination, and it provides both for remedies against discrimination and incentives for schools to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Today, Senator Franken has an important video announcement for you regarding S. 555.

On the occasion of this second national call-in day, when we mark the anniversary of SNDA’s introduction this session, and the anniversary of the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, PFAW has called on you to be part of the solution.

Below are some quick talking points (more detailed talking points here) you can use in your call and to help promote awareness about the bill.
  • Support and cosponsor the Student Non-Discrimination Act.
  • Bullying and harassment are forms of discrimination, but federal civil rights statutes leave LGBT students, and those who are perceived to be LGBT, unprotected.
  • Bullying and harassment in schools is a pervasive national problem.
  • Both Americans overall and education professionals in particular recognize the problem and support congressional action.
  • When students lose their sense of safety, they lose their access to quality education.
  • As Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it should address the bullying and harassment problem.
  • This isn’t just a question of education. It’s a matter of life and death.
Please call your senators now: Capitol Switchboard - (202) 224-3121

You can let us know how your call went with our online call report form.

More than one third of the Senate already supports the Student Non-Discrimination Act. Check the sponsor list to see if your Senators have signed on since last time. If they have, thank them. If they haven’t, it’s time to make another call.

PFAW and AAMIA have also joined 70 national and state organizations in calling on President Obama to publicly support and endorse SNDA.

We recognize and appreciate the leadership that your administration, particularly the Departments of Education and Justice, has demonstrated in efforts to protect students from harassment in schools. The White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in March and the first-ever Federal LGBT Youth Summit in June helped bring critically important attention to the devastating discrimination and harassment that LGBT students often experience in our nation’s public schools. We view an endorsement of the Student Non-Discrimination Act as the next important step the administration should take in the ongoing federal effort to ensure that all students have access to an education unhindered by discrimination and harassment.

[ . . . ]

The Student Non-Discrimination Act presents us with a historic opportunity to offer critical protections to current and future generations of LGBT youth and their student allies by ensuring that discrimination and harassment of students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity will have no place in our country’s public elementary and secondary schools.

You can contact the President here.

Thank you!

PFAW

LWV New Hampshire: We deserve honesty from House leaders

When New Hampshire House leaders chose politics over facts in the voter ID debate, the New Hampshire League of Women Voters called them on it: “We deserve honesty from House leaders.”

The column says voter fraud is well-documented but gives only one instance in New Hampshire: a videotaped scam during the primary. House leadership supports the con-artist behind the videotaping but others called for prosecution. The League said at the time, "The only thing this video shows is that those with time, resources and criminal intent and with no respect for the fundamental laws of our nation can sometimes deceive our neighbors who work as election officials. There is no reason to believe that New Hampshire citizens engage in such un-American behavior."

[ . . . ]

It's clear the authors of the column have never listened to or read any of the testimony from the many organizations - a majority at every hearing - that oppose photo ID to get a ballot. Those opposing photo ID believe creating barriers to the constitutional right to vote, especially for the elderly and disabled, is wrong. House leadership's ranting about race-baiting and fear-mongering is offensive, an insult to our citizens and unworthy of anyone who holds elected office.

The New Hampshire Senate has just passed SB 289, which would require voters to present valid photo identification. The Senate is also considering SB 318, which would alter residency requirements and make other voter registration changes that could have a profound impact, especially among the student population; its lead sponsor, Sharon Carson, is an ALEC member who also supports SB 289.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

DOJ and DOE Resolve MN Allegations, Plus Bullying Action

In October 2010, the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights issued guidance to address bullying in schools, especially as it relates to federal education anti-discrimination laws. One of those laws, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. While the language does not specify sexual orientation and gender identity, DOE has made clear that harassment on these grounds, under certain circumstances, violates Title IX.

Although Title IX does not prohibit discrimination based solely on sexual orientation, Title IX does protect all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, from sex discrimination. When students are subjected to harassment on the basis of their LGBT status, they may also [. . .] be subjected to forms of sex discrimination prohibited under Title IX. The fact that the harassment includes anti-LGBT comments or is partly based on the target’s actual or perceived sexual orientation does not relieve a school of its obligation under Title IX to investigate and remedy overlapping sexual harassment or gender-based harassment. [. . .] Had the school recognized the conduct as a form of sex discrimination, it could have employed the full range of sanctions (including progressive discipline) and remedies designed to eliminate the hostile environment.

This past Monday, DOE and the Department of Justice joined with six students and the Anoka-Hennepin School District to file a proposed consent decree (legal agreement) in the US District Court in Minnesota that would resolve complaints of sex-based harassment of middle and high school students in the school district.

In November 2010, the Department of Justice received a complaint alleging that students in the school district were being harassed by other students because they didn’t dress or act in ways that conform to gender stereotypes. The Departments of Justice and Education conducted an extensive investigation into sex-based harassment in the district’s middle and high schools. Many students reported that the unsafe and unwelcoming school climate inhibited their ability to learn. The parties worked collaboratively to draft a consent decree addressing and resolving the allegations in the complaints.

If approved by the court, the consent decree will ensure that the school district:
  • Retains an expert consultant in the area of sex-based harassment to review the district’s policies and procedures concerning harassment;
  • Develops and implements a comprehensive plan for preventing and addressing student-on-student sex-based harassment at the middle and high schools;
  • Enhances and improves its training of faculty, staff and students on sex-based harassment;
  • Hires or appoints a Title IX coordinator to ensure proper implementation of the district’s sex-based harassment policies and procedures and district compliance with Title IX;
  • Retains an expert consultant in the area of mental health to address the needs of students who are victims of harassment;
  • Provides for other opportunities for student involvement and input into the district’s ongoing anti-harassment efforts;
  • Improves its system for maintaining records of investigations and responding to allegations of harassment;
  • Conducts ongoing monitoring and evaluations of its anti-harassment efforts; and
  • Submits annual compliance reports to the departments.

Tom Perez, DOJ’s Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights:

Education is a great equalizer. Yet, students cannot learn if they are afraid to go to school. Students cannot learn if they are being harassed and threatened. Students cannot learn if they are not free to be themselves. Students cannot learn if they feel that school administrators can’t and don’t protect them.

Bullying cannot be a rite of passage in our nation’s schools. Instead, our schools must be safe and nurturing environments that promote learning and full participation by all students. As a parent of three students in public school, I realize how important it is for children to be free from fear so that they can learn and thrive in school every day.

[ . . . ]

This administration is committed to combating harassment and bullying. Where we see barriers to educational opportunities, we work aggressively to break down those barriers. In Tehachapi, Calif., following the death of Seth Walsh, a gay student who took his own life, we worked with Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights on an agreement with the school district to amend its policies and provide training to address and prevent sex-based harassment. At South Philadelphia High School, we engaged in a comprehensive consent decree to address the severe and pervasive harassment of Asian American students. And in Owatonna, Minn., we entered a settlement agreement to resolve an investigation into the racial and national origin harassment and disproportionate discipline of Somali-American students at Owatonna High School. Last year, the Department of Education produced a comprehensive guidance on bullying. We will use every tool in our law enforcement arsenal to ensure that all students have access to equal educational opportunity.

The consent decree comes on the eve of another important anti-bullying action, and we need your help.

March 8 marks the second national call-in day supporting Senator Franken’s Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) (S. 555).

Check the sponsor list to see if your Senators have signed on since last time. If they have, thank them. If they haven’t, it’s time to make another call. Thank you!

PFAW

Another Empty Courtroom

A few days ago, Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank in the Central District of California took senior status, opening up yet another judicial vacancy in California: its thirteenth. The Central District alone has three current vacancies, with a fourth one set to open possibly within days (as soon as there is a confirmation vote to elevate Judge Jacqueline Nguyen to the Ninth Circuit). Each of the vacancies in this district has been formally recognized as a judicial emergency by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

The Central District serves about 18 million people, including the populations of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Their access to justice is blocked every day their courtrooms are made to sit empty. Clearly, it is urgent to fill this seat as quickly as possible

Fortunately, one of this district's vacancies can be filled today. All the Senate has to do is vote to confirm Michael Fitzgerald, whose nomination to this district has been pending on the floor for more than four months. Unfortunately, that vote is not going to happen today.

No one doubts Fitzgerald's qualifications. A panel of the ABA concluded unanimously that he is well qualified, its highest rating. Judiciary Committee members recognized his qualifications by approving him in an unopposed voice vote. This was way back on November 3, but Senate Republicans have stubbornly refused to allow the full Senate to hold a vote.

If Michael Fitzgerald and all of the other judicial nominees were not being obstructed, our nation would not have so many courtrooms sitting empty while justice passes millions of Americans by.

 

PFAW

Voter ID challenges moving forward in Wisconsin

Last May, Wisconsin Governor and ALEC Alum Scott Walker signed Act 23 (aka AB 7), a voter ID law which also counts ALEC affiliated legislators among its sponsors. Groups challenging this legislation have a long road ahead of them, but this week they scored some important successes.

In the League of Women Voters case, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess ruled on Monday that League President Melanie Ramey has standing as a plaintiff, and Governor Walker is the proper defendant.

The League had countered that whether Ramey herself was affected or not was beside the point because the requirement imposes an additional impediment to voting that is not specified in the state constitution.

"In this, she is surely correct," Niess wrote.

Further, he wrote, the League is in the best position to argue on behalf of voters who are "too physically infirm, mentally ill, impoverished, itinerant, elderly or simply neglectful to comply" but are still qualified voters under the state constitution.

"This is the same cohort of citizens that shows up in the circuit courts in increasing numbers, day in and day out, without lawyers, in foreclosure proceedings, collection actions and family matters," Niess wrote. "Who will advocate for them on these constitutional issues that affect their fundamental, inherent and constitutional right to vote, if not the plaintiffs, or entities like the plaintiffs?"

Walker, Niess wrote, is a proper defendant because under recent state law he has ultimate authority over rule-making by state agencies, including GAB.

In the case brought by the Milwaukee NAACP and Voces de la Frontera, Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan on Tuesday halted AB 7’s enforcement in the upcoming April 3 general election, pending trial.

Flanagan granted a temporary injunction (read the injunction here) ordering Walker and the GAB to "cease immediately any effort to enforce or implement the photo identification requirements" of the law, pending a trial on a permanent injunction scheduled before him on April 16.

"If no injunction is issued, a clearly improper impairment of a most vital element of our society will occur," Flanagan wrote. "The duty of the court is clear. The case has been made. Irreparable harm is likely to occur in the absence of an injunction."

The message from these judges for these and other pending challenges (including Advancement Project and ACLU) is clear: voter suppression is a serious issue, and attempts to implement it merit careful scrutiny from the judicial system.

Indeed, something must be wrong when a veteran appears to vote and his VA card isn’t accepted, or when a 95-year-old cannot get ID because neither she nor the state can locate her birth certificate.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

Rick Santorum's Latest Target -- Single Moms

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

I am a single parent.

According to the right, I am also a leech on society and pose a danger to my own son.

A new bill proposed by a Republican state legislator in Wisconsin would officially label single parents like me a "contributing factor to child abuse and neglect." When radio host Alan Colmes asked the bill's author, Glenn Grothman, to explain himself, Grossman said that women become single parents in order to live off the government, and then lie about it and say they got pregnant by accident.

As far as I know, Sen. Grothman's the first one to try to write the Single Moms Conspiracy theory into law, but he's far from the first one to think it. Bashing single moms has been a mainstay of right-wing politics for decades. Perhaps this is because it combines two of the right's favorite activities: publicly judging the family lives of others and scapegoating.

One of the most enthusiastic purveyors of the Single Moms Conspiracy theory has been Rick Santorum. Mother Jones today put together a collection of some of his early comments on single parenthood. During his 1994 Senate race, Santorum said, "We are seeing the fabric of this country fall apart, and it's falling apart because of single moms." A month later, he accused single mothers of "simply breeding more criminals."

Santorum hasn't exactly stepped back from his claim that single moms are ruining America. In October, he said that the Democratic Party's support base is single mothers with a "desire for government." At a GOP debate in December, he said that single moms aren't marrying their boyfriends because they want to keep on collecting welfare.

What's remarkable is that the same people pushing the theory that single parents are ruining America are also doing everything in their power to keep women from having access to birth control and to keep gay and lesbian parents from getting married. For them, this isn't about improving women's and children's lives: it's about creating a scapegoat.

Research shows that the key to raising healthy children is stability, not the number or gender of their parents. Kids who have parents that come and go face greater risk than kids who have only one parent throughout their lives that they can rely on to be there. If politicians like Rick Santorum want to promote stable families, they should start by respecting all families.

I can think of a lot of things that are making "the fabric of this country fall apart." Loving single parents are not one of them.

Lara Bergthold chairs People For the American Way's Board of Directors.

PFAW

Who's Sorry Now? The Republican Art of the Non-Apology

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Ralph Reed reached out to Rush Limbaugh via Twitter yesterday and accepted his apology. "Apology accepted. Let's move on," he said -- a magnanimous gesture had Rush Limbaugh actually apologized to Ralph Reed. Too bad that, despite the too quick headlines, Limbaugh not only hadn't apologized to Reed -- he hadn't really apologized to anyone at all.

Instead, Reed and Limbaugh, with the backing of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, started up the ole vast right-wing fake apology machine -- designed to temporarily quell a too hot controversy while at the same time not giving an inch.

Unfortunately for them, after too much use of the fake apology, people are catching on.

Although considered by some in the GOP to be a little too rough around the edges, Rush Limbaugh has always been considered a net asset to Republicans. Like fellow right-wing shock-jocks Glenn Beck and Bryan Fischer, he reaches a wide audience with toxic sludge that is ultimately helpful to the Republican Party, saying all the things that fire up the right-wing base, but that the politicians wouldn't want to be caught saying themselves. But Limbaugh has a peculiar kind of power -- no matter how outrageous his comments, members of the establishment Right tiptoe around him, afraid that his toxic words might one day be directed at them. George Will said it best: "They want to bomb Iran, but they're afraid of Rush Limbaugh."

The latest boot-up of the right-wing apology machine began when Limbaugh called Georgetown University law student and contraception coverage advocate Sandra Fluke a "slut," saying "She wants to be paid to have sex." And, as if contraception was sold by the gallon or the pound, he added, "She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception."

President Obama immediately stepped up, calling Fluke to check in and encourage her after she had been smeared on national radio.

Rick Santorum, in contrast, called Limbaugh's comments "absurd," but then reasoned that "an entertainer can be absurd... He's in a very different business than I am."

Mitt Romney's response was flimsier and even more timid. Asked about it while shaking hands at a rally, he said that it was "not the language I would have used." Apparently, he had no problem with Limbaugh saying that birth control advocates want the government to pay for them to have sex. He would just use different words.

Finally, Limbaugh himself fake-apologized. "I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke," he said -- before blaming the left and going on to repeat his accusation that she was "discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress."

"I wouldn't have use those words" is the new "I apologize if anyone was offended."

Ms. Fluke did not accept Limbaugh's fake-apology. Ralph Reed, however, accepted it on her behalf. Republican leaders can't be responsible for everything that comes out of the mouths of every right-wing blowhard. But if they want to be president they can be expected to provide clear responses when comments like Limbaugh's are this outrageous, instead of hiding their heads in the sand hoping that the public exposure of these outrages will go away. How hard is it to say that women who advocate for insurance coverage for contraceptives should be heard and shouldn't be called prostitutes for stating their position on the topic? Is it really worth compromising basic decency to stay in the good graces of Rush Limbaugh?

The Republican Party is increasingly buoyed by a small base whose values are antithetical to those of most other Americans. If they want to survive politically, they are going to have to stand up and no longer be fake apologists for the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

PFAW

Empty Courtrooms, Empty Gestures

The Senate began its proceedings today with 20 highly qualified judicial nominees waiting for a floor vote, most of them completely unopposed in committee yet languishing on the floor for over three months. Eleven would restore justice to empty courtrooms in areas where judges are so overworked that the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has officially declared the area a judicial emergency. Because of unprecedented obstruction, there were a mere five confirmation votes during the first two months of the year, two of which the Republicans resisted so much that Sen. Reid had to file cloture petitions.

Faced with this growing crisis that they have caused, the Senate GOP today graciously allowed votes on ... two nominations. Both were confirmed by overwhelming majorities - 95-2 and 93-4 - yet had been forced to wait almost five months for a vote.

A mere two confirmation votes are disgracefully less than what is needed to clear the backlog and restore a functioning court system to the American people. It isn't even enough to make up for the anticipated four nominations that the Judiciary Committee will likely advance to the floor later this week, resulting in a net increase in the backlog.

This chart makes clear the extent of the obstruction. On average, President Obama's judicial nominees have been forced to wait four times as long for a floor vote than President Bush's confirmed nominees were at this point in his presidency.

Courts are the infrastructure of justice, as vital to our legal rights as roads and bridges are to a transportation system. That infrastructure is collapsing.

As numerous Senate Democrats noted last week, Americans deserve better. Our nation's courts are worth saving.

PFAW

Court Official - "I Just Don't See an End to Our Backlog"

The Memphis Commercial Appeal offers a window into how one state is impacted by the courtroom vacancy crisis.

With federal caseloads growing, a vacant seat on the bench and no relief in sight, local court officials are calling in the cavalry from the north.

Under a special Visiting Judges Program, three federal judges from Michigan -- one of the four states in the Sixth Judicial Circuit that includes Tennessee -- have agreed to help ease the local backlog.

So far 30 local criminal and civil cases have been reassigned to the three judges[,] who may be able to handle some of the work by teleconference, but who otherwise will be scheduling court time in Memphis.

...

The elevation last fall of U.S. Dist. Court Judge Bernice Donald to the federal appeals court bench has created a vacancy and thus added to the existing backlog. (Criminal Court Judge John Fowlkes Jr. has been nominated to fill the vacancy, though confirmation can be a lengthy process.)

...

[Clerk of the U.S. District Court for Western Tennessee Thomas] Gould does not believe the visiting judges will be the answer to the local court's backlog, but said reinforcements should bring at least some temporary relief until Donald's vacancy is filled.

Gould said other districts have similar caseload problems. "Many courts have never (used visiting judges) and others permanently have visiting judges on staff. Even with a full complement of judges, we're going to be struggling to come out of the cellar in terms of how long it takes to dispose of cases.

"I'd like to see a program of visiting judges go on indefinitely if there are people willing to help us do that. I just don't see an end to our backlog."

John Fowlkes was nominated to the Western District of Tennessee in December. Unfortunately, unless the backlog of pending nominees is quickly dealt with and floor votes are subsequently scheduled in a timely manner, Fowlkes will be standing at the back of a needlessly long line. If the people of Tennessee want to see a confirmed judge in their area any time soon, they have an interest in what happens with nominees from other parts of the country.

PFAW

Super-PAC Tuesday

Ten states are holding primaries and caucuses today, earning March 6th the title of “Super Tuesday.” Participants will show up, cast their vote, and hopefully feel good for participating in the democratic process and fulfilling their civic duty.

But thanks to Citizens United, and the Super PACs that flawed decision gave rise to, the voters are not the stars of this show. An outpouring of cash from a few extremely wealthy donors has dramatically altered the campaign landscape, altering the balance of influence from individual donors and grassroots donors to rich special interests and corporations.

As illustrated above by Dave Granlund, tonight’s contests should really be called Super-PAC Tuesday. NPR reports that in the ten states up for grabs, Super PACs have spent a whopping $12 million for ads:

Leading the way is Restore Our Future, the superPAC that backs former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. According to Federal Election Commission numbers, Restore Our Future has spent $6.9 million on the Super Tuesday states.

"The groups have clearly taken the lead in advertising for the whole Republican primary. They're very much taking the lead in advertising for Super Tuesday. It's mostly the 'Restore Our Future show,' followed by Winning Our Future, which is the Gingrich group, and Red, White and Blue, which is the Santorum group," says Ken Goldstein, who tracks political ad spending for Kantar Media CMAG.

Red, White and Blue has spent some $1.3 million on Super Tuesday, and has been running an ad in Ohio that goes after Romney for his alleged similarities to the man all Republicans want to defeat in November: President Obama.

These ads supposedly (and unconvincingly) act independently from a candidate’s official campaign, meaning that candidates are unaccountable for their content. But as Katrina vanden Huevel points out in today’s Washington Post, these superPACs reach “barely a legal fiction,” populated as they are with former staff and fundraisers for the candidates they “independently” support.  And this is in addition to the spending by 501 c-4 organizations the sources for which do not even have to be disclosed.

This is not what democracy looks like. We have to end unfettered political spending in our elections system – and solutions like the DISCLOSE Act and a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United are gaining steam. $12 million worth of ads on Super-PAC Tuesday alone should convince everyone that enough is enough.

PFAW

NYT Echoes PFAW's Call for Judge Cebull's Resignation

The New York Times echoes PFAW President Michael Keegan’s call for Federal District Court Judge Richard Cebull’s resignation in an editorial published today.

Cebull, who admitted sending a racist, sexist email about President Obama’s late mother, has apologized and referred himself for disciplinary review. But an apology isn’t enough. Being a federal judge requires exemplary judgment and requires that one maintain an image beyond reproach. As the NYT notes,

Apologizing for atrocious behavior is better than not trying to apologize. Rush Limbaugh’s nonapology to Sandra Fluke for calling her a prostitute was a good example. But sometimes even a seemingly sincere apology is not enough….

His dislike of the president is so strong, apparently, he could not resist the urge to violate his ethical duty to avoid intemperate conduct that suggests racial and political bias and an appearance, at least, of impropriety. Although Judge Cebull did not intend for his e-mail to become public, his use of a government computer and an official e-mail account to spread the hateful message removes any claim that his action was purely private.

Unfortunately for Judge Cebull, mending fences with the President is not enough to restore the public’s trust. He cast irreversible doubt over his ability to be impartial regardless of who the parties are, but most importantly, he has shown that he lacks the temperament necessary for a member of the federal bench.

He should resign.

PFAW Foundation

Senate Obstruction Continues: The Chart

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Politico that he plans to push forward on filling the federal courts, despite unprecedented Republican obstructionism. Here is what Americans who value the courts are up against:

Despite a vacancy crisis in the federal courts that has led to delayed justice for Americans across the country, Senate Republicans have been using every delay tactic in the books to prevent qualified nominees from getting through the system.

The dotted line represents the average time  President Bush’s confirmed judicial nominees at this point in his presidency had to wait for a floor vote after committee approval. The blue lines are President Obama’s nominees – almost all with overwhelming bipartisan support , yet mostly forced to wait for months on end for no reason.

If Senate Republicans keep filibustering these nominees, Sen. Reid will be forced to start a cumbersome and time-consuming cloture process for each and every one of them. Such filibuster abuse is a waste fo the Senate’s time, and it’s bad for America’s courts.
 

PFAW

Prop 8 Makes Its Stage Debut

Dustin Lance Black, the writer behind J. Edgar and Oscar winner for Milk, is bringing the story of California’s Proposition 8 to the stage.

Black’s 8 had its Broadway premiere on September 19, 2011:

And debuted in Los Angeles this past Saturday:

Thanks to the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the LA event was streamed live on the Internet for all to see.

During the LA curtain call, director Rob Reiner brought David Boies, one of the attorneys in the case, up on stage. (1:59:19) I think Boies sums it up best.

We did put fear and prejudice on trial, and fear and prejudice lost.

PFAW had this to say (and this) following last month’s Ninth Circuit ruling:

Today’s ruling is a major victory for equality and for the thousands of California couples who saw their marriage rights disappear four years ago.

Proposition 8 hurt Californians. It took away the freedom of committed couples to legally marry, to raise children in security, to visit each other in the hospital and to provide for each other in old age. It hurt gay and lesbian Californians, and it hurt their friends and families. Proposition 8 wasn’t just unconstitutional – it was simply wrong.

I congratulate all the Californians who have regained their freedom to marry, and hope that that freedom will soon be extended to every American.

Indeed, we must keep working to ensure that marriage discrimination does not persist at the federal level. Please take a moment to add your name to PFAW's petition urging Congress to Dump DOMA and end this unconstitutional, discriminatory policy once and for all.

PFAW