It’s Time to Kick Him Off
This week, Mitch McConnell and his colleagues in the Senate confirmed a Trump-appointed federal judge for the Eastern District of Missouri. Sarah Pitlyk is such a stunningly bad choice that the American Bar Association said she was “not qualified” for the job. You can read portions of the letter from the ABA in a Washington Post article. Here’s a quick excerpt:
“Ms. Pitlyk has never tried a case as lead or co-counsel, whether civil or criminal. She has never examined a witness. Though Ms. Pitlyk has argued one case in a court of appeals, she has not taken a deposition. She has not argued any motion in a state or federal trial court. She has never picked a jury. She has never participated at any stage of a criminal matter.”William Hubbard, Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary
In other words, she has none of the qualifications to serve as a judge in any capacity, much less at the federal level. And Pitlyk is not alone in her high flying incompetence. Unqualified judges will soon outnumber qualified judges if Trump and McConnell have their way.
Maybe you don’t care. Maybe you are satisfied as long as these judges are anti-abortion and pro-evangelical. But some of these judges are so extreme that their policies could have far-reaching and unintended consequences for generations to come. Judges are supposed to make decisions based on precedent and with careful foresight. Many of these recently appointed judges don’t have the ability or the experience to do that.
Pitlyk, for example, says birth control is “evil” and a “grave moral wrong.” She opposes infertility treatments including surrogacy and IVF. Fun fact: somewhere between one-tenth and one-eighth of all couples struggle to conceive a child without some intervention. That means you definitely know people who would not be alive today if it weren’t for medical infertility treatments. In Pitlyk’s ideal world, those treatments will disappear.
Look, it’s easy to dismiss this sort of thinking as liberal doomsday nonsense. Maybe you believe the checks and balances of the American justice system will keep the most extreme policies from being enacted, but those checks and balances are getting weaker. If lawmakers in Pitlyk’s district want to outlaw IVF, they know they have a friendly judge who’ll rule in their favor. And if anyone challenges that law, they will have to make their way through a court system that dead ends at the Supreme Court.
And here’s where those checks and balances really break down: Pitlyk formerly clerked for Justice Brett Kavanaugh. He is unlikely to rule against her. Neither are any of the other conservative men on the court. And if her rulings are affirmed by the Supreme Court, the ban on IVF and surrogacy and any other infertility treatment could easily become the law of the American land. So, too, could a ban on birth control methods including The Pill, IUDs, and even condoms.
This is not a dystopian thought experiment; this is a real possibility. Your children and grandchildren could grow up in a world where they don’t have the ability to make the sort of family planning decisions that my generation took for granted. They won’t be able to put off having children while they finish degrees or build a career unless they are willing to remain celibate. They won’t be able to seek medical testing for infertility issues. They won’t be able to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections or take birth control pills to regulate hormones or to suppress ovarian cysts. Women won’t be able to get hysterectomies while they are still of child-bearing age. Men won’t be able to get vasectomies, presumably ever.
These policies create a world in which sex becomes incredibly dangerous outside of a few narrow and specific situations. It’s not great for men, but it’s potentially deadly for women and for girls. That, I fear, is the point.
I know there are plenty of Republicans who don’t like Trump, but who like the fact that he’s stacking the judicial system with conservative appointees. The problem is that many of these appointees aren’t merely conservative, they are radical. They hold views so far outside the mainstream that even most Republicans disagree with the policies they support. And while a good judge with lots of experience might be able to separate her personal political views from her rulings on the bench, too many of these judges are not good judges. They lack they experience and the qualifications to do the job. And they will do this job for as long as they want; these are lifetime appointments.
These judges and the people who worked to get them appointed want to strip away women’s rights, but that’s not all. Some of these recently appointed judges are rabidly anti-LGBTQ+ and many are racist. Over the next thirty years or so, they will have the power to chip away at voting rights, to criminalize poverty, to weaken privacy protections, and more. Trump’s judges have already ruled on cases upholding an employers right to segregate employees based on race (United States EEOC v. Autozone, Inc.), to discriminate against an employee based on age (Alberty v. Columbus Township), to fire an employee based on sexual orientation (Bostock v. Clayton County Board of Commissioners), to discriminate on the basis of sex (McClellan v. Midwest Machining). And this is just a sparse sampling. In every case, these Trump appointees are at odds with conservative appointees from both Bush administrations and from the Reagan era. These Trump judges aren’t conservative; they are extreme and dangerous.
Part of the reason Trump has been able to appoint so many justices in his short time as president is that Mitch McConnell spent eight years blocking Obama’s judicial nominees, creating a dangerous backlog of cases and slowing the appeals process in much of the country. Trump is utterly corrupt and needs to be removed from office as soon as possible. Thanks to McConnell, that will probably mean voting him out in 2020. But electing a new president won’t solve the problem. For too long, we’ve allowed Mitch McConnell to put his full weight onto the scales of justice. He’s done enough damage to our country and to democracy. Please, voters of Kentucky, take him back.