Al Franken thinking it over

The Star Tribune has yet to report the machinations of Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken in blocking Senate consideration of the nomination of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. I understand that Senator Klobuchar is sensitive about the disclosure of her machinations. She would prefer that they remain out of sight, leaving her image as Our Lady of Good Feelings (i.e., good feelings about Amy Klobuchar) undisturbed.

Senator Franken seems to has gone along with Senator Klobuchar for the ride. When not holding down the fort at SiriusXM’s Grateful Dead channel to promote his new book, he pretends to have been studying Justice Stras’s record.

Star Tribune political reporter Patrick Coolican ran into Franken on Monday and asked him about what Coolican calls the “stalled nomination” of Justice Stras. Franken provided a response that Coolican has “lightly edited[.]” I won’t insert [sic] to note the places where additional editing was required. This is Franken’s response as reported yesterday in Coolican’s Star Tribune Morning Hot Dish email newsletter (not in the Star Tribune itself):

We did not have meaningful consultation at all. Normally we are consulted about the choice. That’s the tradition, so if there’s any abuse here, it’s the Trump administration by saying this is who we are going with. Normally they would consult with the senators who would be part of the process of picking someone. There’s a reason for the blue slip and it’s basically like in this situation, a party controls the White House and the Senate, that they won’t load the court with very very conservative or very very liberal judges, so this creates some kind of balance. Justice Stras clerked with Justice Clarence Thomas, he said Clarence Thomas was his mentor. There are writings of his that suggest that he and from reports we’ve heard from students etc. that is very far to the right. He’s a nice guy. I talked to him. But I wasn’t assured. [Supreme Court Justice] Gorsuch was a nice guy, but you see how he’s ruling right now. The Eighth Circuit is pretty conservative right now. But I want to consider this. And I wasn’t terribly happy with the process. I think we’re going to have a decision very soon.

That’s some indictment Franken renders against Stras. Stras says Justice Thomas was his mentor!

Franken to the contrary notwithstanding, the writings of Justice Stras are devoid of any suggestion that he is “very very far to the right.” That is a lie. They require dishonest manipulation by the likes of Myron Orfield to betray any such suggestion.

Then Dean David Wippman discussed Stras’s time as a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School in his introduction to the Minnesota Law Review’s special issue honoring Justice Stras upon his departure from the law school for the Minnesota Supreme Court:

David Stras joined the University of Minnesota Law School faculty in 2004 and quickly established himself as a rising star, both as a teacher and a scholar. Only two years after he arrived, he was named the Stanley V. Kinyon Tenure Track Teacher of the Year. The award came as no surprise. Students quickly came to hold Professor Stras in the highest regard. They appreciated his insights, the time he devoted to preparation, and his passion for his subject. Equally important, they knew how much he cared about them. His enthusiasm in class was apparent and infectious.

But David’s concern for students was not confined to the classroom. David made it a personal mission to expand our students’ clerkship opportunities. He worked tirelessly with judges at all levels, including many of his new colleagues on the Minnesota Supreme Court, to place as many students as possible. David also served as the Law Review advisor, helping the editors identify topics, plan symposia, and navigate the byzantine world of academic publishing. It therefore came as no surprise that the Law Review, on its own initiative, decided to organize and publish this Tribute to Justice Stras.

David also quickly built a reputation as an accomplished and insightful observer of all things Supreme Court. Just a few years into his academic career, David published a series of important articles examining the U.S. Supreme Court’s jurisprudence, its docket, and its history, and rapidly established himself as a leading voice in contemporary constitutional debates.

* * * * *

David’s talents as a teacher and scholar were matched only by his warmth and collegiality. David loves the exchange of ideas. He does not shrink from intellectual debate; certainly, he has never hesitated to tell me when he thinks I’m wrong about something. No doubt he will not hesitate to dissent if he disagrees with a court majority. But when David does disagree with a colleague, he always has good reasons, he articulates them well, and, perhaps most important, he engages in good faith dialogue. He is open to persuasion, and even when he disagrees, he respects the positions of those with whom he disagrees. David’s openness and intellectual integrity have earned him the respect and friendship of his faculty colleagues and students alike, whatever their own political leanings.

The whole Minnesota Law Review tribute to Justice Stras (including a useful summary of Stras’s scholarship) are here. Support for Franken’s characterization of Justice Stras is nowhere to be found.

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