Giffords Sues Trump Administration To Uncover Effort to Pack Federal Courts With Unqualified, NRA Hand-Picked Judges

Suit Follows Controversy Over NRA-Loyalist Nominee Brett Talley; Continued Trump Administration Push to Seat Unqualified Judges

WASHINGTON, DC — Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (Giffords) filed a lawsuit yesterday after the Trump Administration refused to disclose records that would reveal the extent of the Administration’s coordination with the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the selection of nominees for lifetime appointments to federal judgeships.

Giffords, a gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut, Captain Mark Kelly, was compelled to file the lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) after the agency failed to timely respond to multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Giffords’ requests seek records that would reveal the gun lobby’s role in directing the Trump Administration’s judicial picks to fill over 100 federal court vacancies. Even though this information is necessary before the nominees are confirmed to lifetime positions, the Administration told Giffords that it would take many months to even begin a search for the records.

The public need for this information is great and growing, as the Senate is poised to approve President Trump’s judicial nominees, a number of whom bear the NRA’s stamp of approval. In September, the gun lobby endorsed four nominees for federal judgeships, one of whom has since been confirmed for a seat on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.The other three will be considered by the full Senate for confirmation soon.

“The Trump Administration has been naming judges with lifetime tenure to the federal bench at breakneck speed, and these judges will influence American law and society for the next generation. Many of these judges have alarming backgrounds and views, and it is extremely troubling that the Washington gun lobby is leveraging its financial support of President Trump and political clout to pressure the administration to appoint judges that share its radical gun agenda and absolutist view of the Second Amendment,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “We’ve demanded that the administration turn over any records that show the gun lobby’s attempts to influence who gets named to the federal courts because the public deserves and needs to know who is calling the shots on judges. Because the administration has stonewalled us on producing these records, we’ve had no choice but to meet them in court.”

Among the the Trump Administration’s controversial picks is Brett Talley, a nominee for the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Alabama, who had publicly pledged “support to the NRA; financially, politically and intellectually” and has been criticized for failing to disclose conflicts of interest. The White House recently announced that it was pulling Mr. Talley’s name from consideration, a decision that came after widespread condemnation of the pick, including by the American Bar Association which unanimously found Talley to be unqualified to serve.

“Far from nominating fair minded jurists to the federal bench, the Trump Administration is trying to pack the courts with extremist judges dedicated to advancing the NRA’s dangerous agenda,” said Democracy Forward Policy and Strategy Director Corey Ciorciari. “The public has a right to know how much influence the NRA has over these critical lifetime appointments.”

Out of concern that the Senate will confirm President’s Trump’s judicial nominees without a public understanding of the degree to which the Washington gun lobby influenced their selection and confirmation, Giffords asked DOJ for, among other things:

  • Communications between gun lobbying groups, including the NRA, and senior Administration and DOJ officials related to Trump’s judicial nominations, including recently confirmed Judge Leonard Grasz;
  • Records related to potential coordination between the NRA and Administration officials regarding Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s selection process.
  • Giffords Law Center is being represented on a pro-bono basis by the Democracy Forward Foundation.

Read the full complaint here.

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Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

For nearly 25 years, the legal experts at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence have been fighting for a safer America by researching, drafting, and defending the laws, policies, and programs proven to save lives from gun violence.

This press release was originally published by Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

 

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