Cheney on Torture: "Safe, Legal, and Effective"

Former Vice President Dick Cheney this week released a new memoir, In My Time. Dahlia Lithwick writes compellingly that this memoir is yet another feeble attempt to reignite the debate over whether torture is wise policy, and in so doing, to try to legitimize a patently illegal practice.
This week Dick Cheney invites us all to join him again in a game he likes to play against the rest of us called Tedious Torture Standoff. He continues to assert—this time in his memoir, In My Time—that he has “no regrets” about developing the U.S. torture program, and he continues to argue—as he did this morning on the Today Show—that torturing prisoners is “safe, legal, and effective.” He continues to assert that he would “strongly support” water-boarding if actionable information could be elicited from a prisoner. He even says that different standards apply to torturing Americans and foreigners. Cheney is trying, in short, to draw us back into the same tiresome debate over the efficacy of torture, which is about as compelling as a debate about the efficacy of slavery or Jim Crow laws. Only fools debate whether patently illegal programs “work”—only fools or those who have been legally implicated in designing the programs in the first place.
Ltihwick goes on to observe that by not holding Cheney and the other architects of the torture regime accountable, President Obama has legitimized their behavior and elevated the torture debate.  Because he has not been held accountable, Cheney is able to claim that his actions were legal. Addressing the fundamental role accountability plays in the rule of law, Lithwick writes that:
Torture really did become legal after 9/11, and even after it was repudiated—again and again—it will always be legal with regard to Dick Cheney and the others who perpetrated it without consequence. The law wasn't a hollow symbol after 9/11. It was the only fixed system we had. We can go on pretending that torture is no longer permissible in this country or under international law, but until there are legal consequences for those who order or engage in torture, we will only be pretending. Cheney is the beneficiary of that artifice.
To read the full article, click here.

Alliance for Justice documented the radical justifications for torture in our short film Tortured Law, and continues to advocate for full accountability for those officials in the U.S. government who legitimized torture.

AT&T Aftermath: Servicemembers Denied Benefits Are Denied Their Day in Court

The Corporate Court's decision in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion set a dangerous precedent, and is forcing everyday Americans out of the courthouse. AFJ takes a look at some of the cases impacted by the decision.

Case: Wolf v. Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp.

Matthew Wolf is a captain in the Army Reserve JAG Corp who was deployed oversees in late 2007.  A year earlier, Captain Wolf leased a new car through Nissan on a 39 month lease, and paid about $600 in advance costs.  The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides that when called to active duty, reservists and National Guard members are entitled to terminate automotive leases and recover a portion of upfront costs paid.  Nissan, however, refused to refund any portion of Wolf’s payments.  Wolf filed a class action on behalf of himself and all other servicemembers whose rights Nissan would not honor.  However, Nissan’s lease agreement contained an arbitration clause with a class action waiver.  The district court held that, in light of ConcepciĆ³n, the FAA and its “policies favoring and promoting arbitration” required solitary arbitration, even if it hindered the policy goals behind the SCRA.

Click here for more on the aftermath of the Court's AT&T decision.

AT&T Aftermath: No Public Accountability for False Claims about Smartphone Speeds

The Corporate Court's decision in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion set a dangerous precedent, and is forcing everyday Americans out of the courthouse. AFJ takes a look at some of the cases impacted by the decision.

Case: Arellano v. T-Mobile USA, Inc.

Stacie Lee Arellano bought a “MyTouch 4G” smartphone from T-Mobile, and signed a two year contract for service. But, according to Arellano, the phone and T-Mobile’s network don’t actually provide “4G” service or speeds, just a rebranded “3G” connection. Questionable “4G” labeling is an ongoing problem in the cellular industry,  and Arellano sought to represent a class of consumers in seeking damages and injunctive relief against T-Mobile’s advertising. Arellano argued that the contract’s class waiver was unenforceable because it would preclude any possibility of obtaining an injunction to prevent T-Mobile from continuing to deceive the general public. The district judge ruled that “perhaps regrettably, this argument was rejected” by the Supreme Court’s ConcepciĆ³n decision.

Click here for more on the aftermath of the Court's AT&T decision.

Washington Post Slams Senate Obstruction on Judges

The Senate's slow pace when it comes to considering and confirming judicial nominations has been gaining more attention in recent months, as the judicial vacancy crisis becomes more and more apparent. Courts across the nation are suffering under enormous caseloads, and Americans seeking justice are being forced to wait longer and longer to have their day in court.

Republican obstruction in the last Congress left President Obama with the lowest percentage of approved judicial nominees at the end of his first two years of any President in American history.

The Washington Post noted this destructive trend in a hard-hitting editorial.

Yet the Senate has confirmed just 35 Obama judicial nominees this year — with only three for the courts of appeals. The responsibility for lingering vacancies now lies primarily with Capitol Hill.


What excuse is there to hold up confirmation for uncontroversial trial court nominees? Kathleen Williams, for example, had the support of her home-state senators — Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio — and was designated to fill a judicial emergency vacancy on an overwhelmed court in the Southern District of Florida. Ms. Williams was one of the lucky four who finally earned confirmation this month from a unanimous Senate — more than a year after Mr. Obama originally nominated her.

There are 112 federal district and circuit court vacancies, and 56 pending nominees.

For more on the judicial vacancy crisis, and reports on nominees and confirmations, see Alliance for Justice's Judicial Selection Project.

Justice and Congressional Oversight in the Era of Issa

Yesterday's New York Times featured a prominent story on Congressman Darrell Issa, chairman of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government reform. One of the wealthiest members of Congress, Issa has also become one of the most forceful activists for corporate power. Upon assuming the chairmanship of his committee, Issa asked business and industry leaders to tell him which government agencies and regulations his committee should subject to scrutiny, and his hearings are becoming known for their single-minded pursuit of Issa's pro-corporate agenda.

The Times examines Issa's committee actions, not just in light of his pro-corporate ideology, but also in the context of his own personal interests:
Even as he has built a reputation as a forceful Congressional advocate for business, Mr. Issa has bought up office buildings, split a holding company into separate multimillion-dollar businesses, started an insurance company, traded hundreds of millions of dollars in securities, invested in overseas funds, retained an interest in his auto-alarm company and built up a family foundation.

As his private wealth and public power have grown, so too has the overlap between his private and business lives, with at least some of the congressman’s government actions helping to make a rich man even richer and raising the potential for conflicts.
Though the Times focuses on Issa's personal motivations for his pro-corporate leanings, his ideology is also worth investigating. 

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick last week examined Issa's worldview in the context of committee actions against the National Labor Relations Board. Lithwick states that Issa's crusade "makes sense only if you are a subscriber to the nihilist worldview that virtually all government agencies are corrupt, socialist minions of Obama."
What has Issa been doing in the name of "oversight"? Well, this past week he issued a congressional subpoena for all the NLRB documents related to the Boeing matter—while the matter is still pending before an administrative law judge in Seattle. For those who believe the NLRB is comprised solely of beings hatched and raised in secret underground labs by the Obama family in order to foment worldwide socialism, this is good news. Mumble, mumble, "job-killing," mumble and such. But as 34 labor and legal experts pointed out in a letter sent to Issa last month, this unprecedented demand for "[a]ll documents and communications relating to the [NLRB's] Office of General Counsel's investigation of Boeing" imperils not only an ongoing case but also the functioning of the NLRB in the future. As the professors warn, oversight is clearly important, but "other congressional committees routinely manage to carry out their oversight functions without intruding into active cases." The administrative law judge overseeing the case recently denied Boeing's request for just such material. Why should Congress gain access to privileged material for only one side of the case?
Click here to read the rest of the Slate article.

New York Times applauds Seventh Circuit ruling allowing torture suit to proceed

On Sunday, an editorial in the New York Times applauded a recent Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling which allows two Americans to sue former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others for violating their rights. Alliance for Justice also wrote about the case, focusing on the fact it was a 2-1 decision written by President Obama’s first circuit court nominee, Judge David Hamilton of the Seventh Circuit. In its strongly-worded editorial, the Times explained:

The case is important because it makes clear – for the first time – that government officials can be held accountable for the intentional mistreatment of American citizens, even if that conduct happens in a war zone. (Sadly, there remains no accountability for the abuse, and torture, of foreigners by American jailers and interrogators, which Mr. Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush personally sanctioned.)

In allowing the suit to go forward, the court said the plaintiffs had alleged facts showing “that it is plausible, and not merely speculative, that Secretary Rumsfeld was personally responsible for creating the policies that caused the alleged unconstitutional torture,” and that he “acted with deliberate indifference by not ensuring that the detainees were treated in a humane manner despite his knowledge of widespread detainee mistreatment.”

The court rejected what it called the “unprecedented breadth” of the argument put forward by Mr. Rumsfeld and other defendants — that no government or military employee could ever be sued by American civilians for torture or even murder in a war zone. The court made plain that the wrongdoing alleged “violates the most basic terms of the constitutional compact between our government and the citizens of this country.”

Alliance for Justice applauds the New York Times editorial, as we continue to demand accountability for torture. To learn more about the issue and our efforts, click here.

AT&T Aftermath: Sham Credit Repair Business Takes Money, Runs, Escapes

The Corporate Court's decision in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion set a dangerous precedent, and is forcing everyday Americans out of the courthouse. AFJ takes a look at some of the cases impacted by the decision.

Case: Day v. Persels & Assocs. LLC

Miranda Day wanted to pay off her debt and rebuild her credit, so she enrolled in CareOne’s credit counseling service.  She sent CareOne $1,274.34 to put towards her debt, but they never paid her creditors or contacted them to negotiate for better terms, and eventually Day had to file for bankruptcy.  She then took CareOne to court under the Credit Repair Organizations Act and Florida law on behalf of herself and other victims.  However, buried in the paperwork and electronic forms she filled out was an arbitration clause that prohibited class actions.  Before the AT&T decision, Day argued that the ban on class arbitration was unconscionable and void under Florida contract law, but after the decision, Day conceded the Supreme Court had defeated her argument.

Click here for more on the aftermath of the Court's AT&T decision.

AT&T Aftermath: Debt Collector Escapes Public Trial of Violations of Federal Law

The Corporate Court's decision in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion set a dangerous precedent, and is forcing everyday Americans out of the courthouse. AFJ takes a look at some of the cases impacted by the decision.

Case: Bellows v. Midland Credit Mgmt. Inc.

Douglas Bellows alleged that Midland Credit Management, a debt collector, made harassing and abusive attempts to collect a debt in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Bellows filed suit on behalf of himself and others subjected to Midland’s tactics, but his HSBC credit card agreement contained an arbitration clause which also banned class actions.  Bellows argued that his rights were protected by California’s Discover Bank rule.  The judge waited until the Supreme Court issued its decision in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, and then ordered Bellows to pursue his claim in solitary arbitration.

The New York Times Notes Ongoing Effects of Citizens United, Calls for Reform

The New York Times published an editorial today criticizing the effects of the Supreme Court decision in last year’s landmark Citizens United v. F.E.C. case, in which the Court ruled that the government may not ban campaign spending by corporations. The Court justified its decision by noting that “prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters.”

However, as today's editorial points out, this has not come to pass:
American elections have since been flooded with corporate money. And the court’s reasoning is proving to be wrong: Shareholders of most American companies can’t determine whether corporate campaign spending is in their best interest because they haven’t been told how the companies are spending in political races.

The New York Times urges the Securities and Exchange Commission to pass a rule requiring the disclosure of political expenditures to shareholders, citing a petitionlast week by a group of legal scholars calling for greater transparency in corporate political contributions.

For more on the pro-corporate Roberts Court, its decisions, and its upcoming cases, see our Corporate Court resource page.

Obama Appointee Writes Majority Decision Allowing Torture Suit to Proceed Against Rumsfeld

Judge David Hamilton, an Obama appointee to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals who was filibustered by Republicans, cast the deciding vote yesterday in a decision with important implications for torture accountability. The Court ruled 2-1 that a lawsuit against former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by American citizens who claim to have been tortured could proceed. Judge Hamilton’s ruling in Vance v. Rumsfeld makes clear, President Obama’s judges are already having an impact on our country’s jurisprudence.

In the first 30 months of his presidency, Obama has seen 95 judges confirmed – far fewer than the number confirmed by Presidents Clinton and Bush at similar points in their presidencies.

Judge Hamilton filled a seat left vacant when Judge Kenneth Ripple, a Reagan appointee, retired. Prior to joining the Seventh Circuit, Judge Hamilton was a district court judge in the Southern District of Indiana. His stellar record on the bench, in addition to his commitment to ensuring equal justice for all, made him a strong appellate court nominee. Nonetheless, his nomination stalled in the Senate for over eight months, and his confirmation required the Senate’s first judicial filibuster. Hamilton won that vote by a margin of 70-29, and his confirmation by a vote of 59-39 on November 19, 2009. Senator Lugar was the only Republican to vote to confirm him.

Judge Hamilton’s ruling in Vance v. Rumsfeld is a powerful disavowal of the policy that lead to the plaintiffs in Vance being tortured: “The wrongdoing alleged here violates the most basic terms of the constitutional compact between our government and the citizens of this country. ... There can be no doubt that the deliberate infliction of such treatment on U.S. citizens, even in a war zone, is unconstitutional.”  The Department of Justice had argued that even if everything plaintiffs alleged were true, Rumsfeld was entitled to qualified immunity and could not be sued.  Luckily, Judge Hamilton rejected the Obama Administration’s position.

The plaintiffs in Vance are U.S. citizens who were in Iraq to work for Shield Group Security, an Iraqi company providing security services for infrastructure projects. According to reporting by the New York Times, one of the plaintiffs was a whistleblower who reported the company’s suspicious conduct to the FBI, but when the US military raided the company the informant and another employee were mistakenly detained, held for three months, and tortured.  They were eventually released without being charged with a crime.

Dahlia Lithwick wrote about the ruling on Slate:
This case isn't about the rights of an enemy soldier detained on a battlefield with a weapon in his hand. It's about the rights of brave whistle-blowers who were tortured by bureaucratic mistake.
If you don't believe the war on terror is migrating into your backyard, this case is confirmation. If you don't think the state-secrets doctrine will be trotted out to protect the government's abuse of innocent Americans as well as foreign prisoners, this case proves it. If you worry that "turning the page" means always finding more of the same, this case makes that plain. A country in which nobody is ever really responsible is a country in which nobody is ever truly safe.
The 7th Circuit decision comes on the heels of a district court decision last week also allowing a separate but similar torture claim against former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to go forward. The plaintiff in that case is a civilian employee of an American defense contracting company in Iraq who alleges he was abducted by the American military in 2005, held, and tortured for nine months in a military jail without ever being charged with a crime. In allowing the claim against Rumsfeld to move forward, Judge Gwin of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia held that the Constitution protects Americans at home and abroad and that “the court finds no convincing reason that United States citizens in Iraq should or must lose previously-declared substantive due process protections during prolonged detention in a conflict zone abroad.”[1]

Alliance for Justice praises these decisions and continues to demand accountability for torture. These recent court decisions are a step in the right direction to ensuring that our leaders are held accountable for their actions. Learn more about accountability for torture here.

District Judge Allows Army Veteran to Sue Rumsfeld for Torture

United States District Judge James Gwin has permitted an Army veteran to go forward with a federal suit in the District of Columbia against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for torture, the Seattle Times reports.

The veteran, whose name is undisclosed, was an employee of an American contracting company and translator for the U.S. Marine Corp in the Iraqi province of Anbar.  As he was preparing to return home, the military suddenly arrested and imprisoned him for nine months, denying him representation by a lawyer, by the Marines, or by his employer, and without informing his family, who was expecting him home for annual leave.  While in prison, he suffered abuse, including being kicked, threatened, and blindfolded during questioning.  The Department of Justice accused him of helping give the enemy confidential information and helping the enemy to enter Iraq.  However, after months of incarceration and interrogation, the government never formally charged him.

The man’s attorney, Mike Kanovitz, suspects the military of detaining his client to keep him from revealing an important connection he made with a sheik while gathering information in Iraq.

The lawsuit alleges that Secretary Rumsfeld himself made decisions about torture techniques on a case-by-case basis, including the decision to hold this veteran without access to the legal system.  This case is one of the few in which a federal judge has allowed a suit against Rumsfeld personally to go forward.  Last year, District Judge Wayne Andersen of the Northern District of Illinois held that torture victims Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel could personally sue Rumsfeld for approving the methods used on them.  Suing a high-ranking government official has become difficult under the Supreme Court’s decision in Ashcroft v. Al-Kidd, which held that a suit against a high-ranking official may only proceed if that official was directly connected with a constitutional rights violation and fully knew that the action was such a violation.

In allowing the suit to proceed, Judge Gwin held that “[t]he court finds no convincing reason that United States citizens in Iraq should or must lose previously declared substantive due process protections during prolonged detention in a conflict zone abroad.”

Thus far, no high-ranking officials have been held accountable for torture. Click here to learn more about accountability for torture.

AFJ Urges Full-Scale Push To Confirm Judicial Nominations When Congress Returns In September



Washington, D.C., August 4, 2011— When the United States Senate left town this week for its August recess, it left behind the unfinished business of fully staffing the federal courts. Twenty nominees to federal district and circuit courts of appeal were left stranded on the Senate floor, unable to get a final confirmation vote as Republicans continued their tactics of endless delay and unwavering obstruction. Even including the four nominees approved on Tuesday, Republican leadership has allowed votes on only 10 nominees to lifetime seats in the last 12 weeks.

Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron repeated her call for action to end the crisis that has left federal courts across the country understaffed and increasingly unable to serve the interests of justice. “This week, once again, Republicans in the Senate have proven that they are willing to use the federal courts as pawns in an increasingly destructive and irresponsible partisan game,” she said. “This has been going on since Day One of the Obama presidency and it has to stop. The president has done his part to increase the pace of nominations. The Senate Judiciary Committee has vetted and voted on nominees at a brisk and responsible pace. But Republican leaders bring the entire process to a screeching halt on the Senate floor. When Congress returns in September, the blockade must end and the process must be allowed to move forward before more damage is done.”

Aron also praised the statement made today by White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler highlighting the gender and racial diversity of President Obama’s appointments. “One of President Obama’s greatest achievements is the extraordinary progress he has made in bringing diversity to the federal bench,” Aron explained. “It’s striking, in fact, that half of the 20 nominees currently being blocked from receiving final Senate votes are women. The old glass ceiling has apparently been replaced by a brick wall of intransigence and political gamesmanship.”

The plain unvarnished facts of the judicial crisis serve as evidence of the complete breakdown of the confirmation process and an unprecedented and reckless abandonment of constitutional responsibilities by Senate Republicans:

•    In January, at the beginning of the 112th Congress, there were 114 vacant or imminently vacant judgeships in the federal judiciary – more than one in seven authorized judgeships.

•    Today, the federal bench has 111 judgeships currently or imminently vacant, including 35 that are so serious that they are considered judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

•    This year, the Senate has confirmed about one nominee per week. This sluggish pace has been almost completely offset by the creation of approximately one new vacancy per week due to retirements or deaths.

•    Overall, at this point in their first terms, Presidents Clinton and Bush had seen 152 and 144 of their federal district and circuit nominees confirmed, respectively. The Senate has only confirmed 93 of President Obama’s nominees.

•    If the current confirmation pace holds there will be approximately the same number of judicial vacancies at the end of the year as there were at the beginning of the year.

•    The Senate recessed without taking action on 20 nominees pending on the floor.  Sixteen of these nominees were reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee without opposition from Republicans, and three others were reported out with strong bipartisan support.  Ten of the pending nominees would fill seats considered to be “judicial emergencies” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

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Alliance for Justice is the leading provider of information on judicial nominations. A continuously updated statistical summary of the nominations process is available here:

Additional information is also available on the AFJ Website at

AFJ hosts panel discussion in San Francisco on Judicial Ethics and the Supreme Court

Today, Alliance for Justice, along with the Bay Area Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society and California Common Cause, held a panel discussion on Judicial Ethics and the Supreme Court.  This event, hosted in the San Francisco offices of the law firm Bingham McCutchen, featured Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice, Derek Cressman of California Common Cause, and Richard Zitrin, Lecturer in Law at UC Hastings and Former Director of the Center for Applied Legal Ethics, University of San Francisco School of Law.

Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice, introduces panelists
Richard Zitrin (L) and Derek Cressman
The discussion focused on recent questions about bias and impartiality of Supreme Court justices, including reported incidents of justices failing to make true and accurate disclosures of gifts and/or spousal income, as well as reports of their attendance at partisan events.  These indiscretions, and others, raise issue as to the impartiality of the justices who, unlike judges sitting on the lower federal courts, are not bound by the federal Code of Conduct for United States Judges.  According to the Supreme Court, this Code of Conduct is deemed merely advisory by the justices on the highest court in the country.

Derek Cressman of California Common Cause
discusses his organization's efforts to reveal
justices' violations of ethical conduct.
The panelists explained the very real implications of having a Supreme Court whose members are not only without a code of ethics, but have been untruthful in the disclosure reports that they are required to provide.  As a means of addressing this issue, the panelists and audience members engaged in a lively Q&A session in which they discussed the possibilities of legislative reform and the possibility of presenting nominees to the Supreme Court with a pledge to abide by the Code of Conduct upon confirmation.

Audience members included lawyers and activists,
and were eligible to receive 1.0 CLE credits for their attendance.
Panelists and audience members agreed that members of the federal judiciary, including Supreme Court justices, should be allowed and encouraged to participate in events such as educational seminars and meetings sponsored by issue based organizations, but that the appearance of the Supreme Court’s independence and impartiality is undermined when its Justices are held to a lower ethical standard.

For more information on the issue of judicial ethics, and to find out about Alliance for Justice’s efforts for reform, please visit AFJ’s website at

Senate Confirms 4 District Court Nominees, Schedules Vote for 1 Circuit Court Nominee, Recesses

This evening the Senate confirmed Sara Lynn Darrow to the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Richard Brooke Jackson to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, Kathleen M. Williams to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and Nelva Gonzales Ramos to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, all by unanimous consent. The Senate also scheduled a confirmation vote for Bernice Bouie Donald, nominee to the United States Court of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit, on Tuesday, September 6th at 5:30pm, following the Senate’s August recess.

The Senate took no action on 19 other judicial nominees currently pending on the Senate floor, 18 of whom were reported out of committee either unanimously or with strong bipartisan support. There are now 111 current and future vacancies in the federal judiciary—1 in 7 judgeships—only 3 fewer than there were at the beginning of the current Congress.

For the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on judicial nominations, visit the Alliance for Justice’s Judicial Selection Project webpage.

AFJ Disappointed that 20 Judicial Nominations Are Left Behind as Senate Goes on Summer Vacation


AFJ Disappointed that 20 Judicial Nominations Are Left Behind as Senate Goes on Summer Vacation

Washington, D.C., August 2, 2011—Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron issued the following statement as the United States Senate adjourned for the summer, confirming only four of the 24 judicial nominations awaiting final votes on the Senate floor:

After dealing with the federal budget deficit, the United States Senate has now adjourned for the summer, apparently willing to leave the federal judge deficit largely unaddressed. Left behind in the scramble to get out of town were 20 judicial nominees awaiting final votes, all but one of whom were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously or with only token opposition. Efforts to have votes before the recess on these noncontroversial nominees were largely stymied by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the unyielding Republican practice of intransigent obstruction.

The sad fact is that there are 111 federal district and circuit court judgeships currently or soon-to-be vacant – that’s one out of seven seats. Astonishingly, those are actually more vacancies than existed at the beginning of this session of Congress, a situation that’s epitomized by the fact that the Republican leadership allowed votes on only 10 nominees to lifetime seats in the last 12 weeks.

Addressing the federal budget deficit is hard, but fixing the federal judge deficit is not. The crisis can be ameliorated by simply giving every nominee sent to the floor a timely vote. The ongoing failure to do so is threatening to send justice itself into default.

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More information on the current judicial nomination crisis can be found here:

Nan Aron’s commentary about this issue in Huffington Post can be found here:

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Alliance for Justice is a national association of more than 100 organizations, representing a broad array of groups committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society. AFJ works to ensure that the federal judiciary advances core constitutional values, preserves human rights and unfettered access to the courts, and adheres to the even-handed administration of justice for all Americans. It is the leading expert on the legal framework for nonprofit advocacy efforts, providing definitive information, resources, and technical assistance that encourages organizations and their funding partners to fully exercise their right to be active participants in the democratic process. AFJ is based in Washington, D.C. Additional information can be found at

Legal Experts Speak Out Against Congressional Overreach

- Joshua Friedlander

Since the 2010 elections, the nation has seen a concerted effort by conservative politicians to weaken American workers’ rights, both at the state level and in Congress. This sentiment has been clearly exhibited by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa (R-CA) who is waging an all-out corporate-directed attack on government agencies like the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

On July 29, a group of 34 legal experts spoke out against Issa’s strong-arm tactics with an open letter condemning his interference with an ongoing law enforcement investigation into an NLRB complaint against the Boeing Corporation. Issa has used his committee to bully NLRB investigators and to characterize the agency's adherence to the law as somehow politically motivated. His actions in this case are clearly inappropriate, and are a prime example of congressional overreach.  

The letter from legal experts was spurred by a July 12 letter sent by Issa to Lafe Solomon, Acting General Counsel of the NLRB, demanding that the committee receive all investigation-related documents from the complaint against Boeing. Although Solomon has already released "discoverable" documents to ensure due process and a fair trial for both parties, Issa continues to demand all case-related documents.

The legal experts are "gravely concerned by the undue pressure that this [Issa's] letter, and its threats to compel disclosure of privileged documents, have placed on an independent law enforcement agency" and that the committee’s intervention in an ongoing investigation could result in federal courts nullifying and overturning the decision in the case. The experts argue that “such a result would jeopardize our long-held democratic principles and respect for the rule of law.” The academics urge the committee to “let this case proceed according to the policies established in the National Labor Relations Act without further interference.” More than 30 academics from 29 universities and law schools joined the letter.

The NLRB’s complaint again Boeing alleges that the company violated federal labor law by transferring an airplane production line from a union facility in the state of Washington to a non-union facility in South Carolina for retaliatory reasons. The case is currently being tried before Administrative Federal Judge Clifford Anderson, who has rejected Boeing’s motion of dismissal for failing to provide a claim.