The Democrats’ Obstruction Continues

I wrote about the Democrats’ unprecedented obstruction of President Trump’s executive branch and judicial nominees here, and specifically about Democratic Senators blocking judicial nominations with the archaic “blue slip” practice here.

One of the nominees being blocked by the Democrats is Justice David Stras of the Minnesota Supreme Court. President Trump has appointed Justice Stras to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, but Minnesota senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are preventing Stras from getting a hearing in the Judiciary Committee. Rumor has it that while other Democratic senators are at least meeting with judicial nominees from their states, Klobuchar and Franken have not even condescended to meet with Justice Stras to discuss any reservations they may have about his nomination.

Perhaps this is because they have no such reservations, but are engaging in obstruction for its own sake. Justice Stras’s nomination is supported by an extraordinary array of judges, lawyers, professors and politicians of all stripes. No one has offered even a theory as to why he should not be confirmed to the 8th Circuit.

A number of letters have been written to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, and Senators Franken and Klobuchar. They testify to Justice Stras’s extraordinary abilities and unimpeachable character. Letters have been submitted by 12 former Minnesota senators and representatives of both parties; three retired justices who served with Stras on the Minnesota Supreme Court; 107 distinguished Minnesota lawyers and retired judges, many of whom I know, who span the full ideological spectrum; 29 members of Justice Stras’s U.S. Supreme Court clerkship class (Stras clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas); 38 Minnesota Law School professors who know Stras from his time teaching there; and 34 lawyers from my former law firm, Faegre Baker Daniels, where Stras was of counsel prior to his appointment to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

All of the letters wholeheartedly endorse Justice Stras’s nomination, and many of those who signed them are Democrats. The letter that was signed by 107 lawyers and retired judges is typical:

Re: Nomination of Justice David Stras to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals

Dear Senators:

The undersigned are Minnesota lawyers from all political walks of life who join in respectfully urging the Senate to confirm Justice David Stras’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

In his seven years as a Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Justice Stras has distinguished himself not only as a top-notch jurist, but as a judge who decides cases without regard to political affiliation or party lines. He has sided with both “liberal” and “conservative” Justices during his tenure on the court, always in pursuit of applying the law as it comes to him, without ideology or favoritism.

Justice Stras has also proven to be a collegial and collaborative judge, as three of his former colleagues on the Minnesota Supreme Court (retired Justices Alan Page, Helen Meyer, and Paul Anderson) explained in publicly endorsing him in a recent editorial in the Minneapolis StarTribune. (“The case for the nomination of David Stras to the federal courts,” June 2, 2017.) This comes as no surprise. After practicing law, Justice Stras came to Minnesota to teach at the University of Minnesota Law School. Just two years later, he was named Stanley V. Kinyon Tenure Track Teacher of the Year. He was such a student favorite that the staff of the Minnesota Law Review published a tribute to Justice Stras in their Spring 2011 issue. That tribute included accolades from then-Dean David Wippman as well as former Dean Robert Stein, the latter of whom concluded his remarks by stating that “[t]he citizens of Minnesota and the entire nation will be the better for [Justice Stras’s] appointment” to the Minnesota Supreme Court. (Robert A. Stein, Distinguished Scholar, Dedicated Teacher, and Now Justice: David R. Stras, 95 Minn. L. Rev. 116, 124 (2011).

Those of us who have appeared before Justice Stras regard him as a very skilled, polite, engaging, inquisitive, intellectually curious judge who is fair, impartial, and interested in one thing: getting to the right answer under the law. Politics plays no role in arguing a case to Justice Stras. Arguing for a “conservative” result does not help. Only dealing objectively with the law will be effective with Justice Stras.

Justice Stras has all of the qualities of an excellent judge. He is hard-working, intelligent, and open to all views. He would be an outstanding addition to the Eighth Circuit, and we respectfully urge the Judiciary Committee and the Senate to confirm his nomination to the Eighth Circuit.

Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar should be ashamed of themselves. They don’t even pretend to have any basis for objecting to Justice Stras’s nomination. They are acting out of sheer partisanship and, frankly, hatred of the president who surprised them by being elected. Their conduct is ignoble and dishonorable.

You can send Amy Klobuchar an email here, politely asking her to stop obstructing the nomination of a superbly qualified jurist to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. You can email Al Franken here. Please do!

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