President-Elect Trump does not have a mandate to build a conservative court, and we want him to know that.
As the initial shock of the 2016 presidential election fades into collective anxiety and a widely shared impulse for political engagement, the vacated seat of conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia has garnered special attention as a contentious political matter. In March, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, a well-qualified and unimpeachably moderate judge, to the bench as a replacement.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly and vocally rejected the prospect of confirming Garland or any nomination brought forth by the current President, in an unprecedented move that broke with key norms and sparked lively debate. At issue, has been the interpretation of language in Article 11, section 2 of the Constitution, and whether, or not, the Senate is obligated to take formal action by holding a hearing on Garland. Some have maintained that the President has a constitutional responsibility to appoint his nominee in the face of Senate inaction, while others have argued that the Framers intended for the Senate’s responsibility to be interpreted broadly, evidenced by a history of “consistent practice.”
After waiting longer than any nominee in US history for a confirmation hearing, Merrick Garland has joined the very short but distinguished ranks of unconfirmed nominees, and returned to work as the chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. McConnell has justified his obstinance by saying “the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.” Yet, if the Senate has seemed passive in its resistance to offer formal advice, other groups, including the conservative Federalist Society, have aggressively pressed for the nomination of a justice with an originalist interpretation of the Constitution.
McConnell falsely claims that a precedent exists for refusing to confirm a justice during an election year, and we reject the idea that the incoming administration holds a mandate to select a nominee whose interpretation of the Constitution would be likely to jeopardize basic human rights protections. Rather, we aim to heed the Senate Majority Leader’s insistence that Americans get their say, and have launched Scotus Letter to send the message that a moderate justice would best serve the interests of all Americans. Installing a moderate in the Supreme Court would ensure the integrity of the deliberative process at a time when US democratic norms, institutions, and progressive gains appear to be at risk.
The idea for #ScotusLetter was born out of a sense of urgency, during a post-election phone call, and has come to fruition as a platform for advocacy. We make it incredibly simple and straightforward to make your voice heard. From the Letters page, with one click you can download a form letter that is pre-addressed to the White House, and can be printed, folded, and mailed with no envelope required.
Mailing a letter in hard copy is useful for several reasons. For one, it goes straight to the White House mailroom, where written letters can have an impact. The address line of our form letter contains the line “re: nomination of a moderate Supreme Court Justice,” increasing our visibility, and we have included a space to dedicate the letter to a person or cause.
Additionally, the scotusletter.net website is linked to the White House Facebook Messenger and online portal of President-elect Trump’s transition team. We provide a short sample text that can be copied, modified, and pasted directly into the links, making it easy to send a direct message electronically.
In our latest website update, we have also uploaded contact information for all US senators, highlighting members of the Senate Judiciary Committee upon whom it is incumbent to take formal action regarding Supreme Court nominations. We have included a basic sample script to follow as a guide to make calling easy. Going forward, we will continue adding more ways to advocate for the confirmation of a moderate justice.
We need to be visible, and loud. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Snap a pic of your letter and tweet it at us. Share this campaign with individuals or groups who will be directly affected by upcoming Supreme Court decisions. Encourage your friends in other states to mail their own letters and call their own senators. Share this post among your networks. Print a stack of SCOTUS Letters and leave them in your office, next to the stamps.
The Supreme Court will see more vacancies in the coming years, having far-reaching, long term impacts on critical issues. As we witness institutions threatened with disarray by irresponsible appointments being made during this transitional time in our country, it is essential to hold our leaders accountable and send the message that the integrity of the Supreme Court must be guarded.