What’s Worse than Four Years? Try a Lifetime.
A not-so-funny thing happened this week. And it wasn’t watching the to-ing and fro-ing, grimacing and gloating, of our health care debacle. It was the quiet, party-line vote to confirm John Bush as judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, a jurisdiction of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.
This is a lifetime appointment.
John Bush is only 52 years old.
But you know, he has qualifications. He was a lawyer for former President Ronald Regan during Iran-Contra; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called his fellow Kentuckian, “a man of integrity and considerable ability.”
And maybe that’s all true for John Bush. But what about John Bush’s alter ego, one G. Morris, right-wing blogger/conspiracy theorist for his wife’s ultraconservative blog, Elephants in the Bluegrass?
And because I prefer to not repeat his more extreme views regarding “faggots” and “abortionists” and and and, I instead choose this quote by Supreme Court expert Ian Millhiser of the Center for American Progress to say, “This is not normal…Bush’s public statements and writings do not simply reveal political views that place him very far to the right. They also reveal legal opinions that are widely out of step with well-established law accepted by Democrats and Republican alike.”
But fundamentally, shouldn’t extreme, inciting views render someone unfit for a job requiring an ability to be fair, impartial and “blind” before the law?
Even North Carolina’s Thom Tillis seemingly understands how bad these optics are when, in the hearings, he tossed the old softball pitch of, “Do you think impartiality is an aspiration or an absolute expectation?”
Stunningly, Bush responded “An aspiration.”
Causing Thom Tillis to a pause and say, “I actually have a concern with someone who thinks that impartiality is an aspiration. I think it’s an expectation.”
And then, just like that, John Bush was confirmed straight down party lines.
And we are left to suffer our second blow of this event, (The first being Bush’s actual nomination.) The second blow, which we must wake up to and acknowledge, is that even Republican Senators you might have thought leaned liberal on social issues, did not think “faggots” were worth fighting for.
And yes, this isn’t in their home district. And yes, Mitch McConnell is livid over health care and the same three people can’t always be the tall poppy—because we all know tall poppies get their heads lopped off. But still. Bush is a documented inciter and hater, willing to acknowledge under oath his impartiality is “only an aspiration—not a requirement” and now he is a lifetime member of the sixth circuit court.
And with (I believe) 117 federal judgeships standing empty, the news isn’t particularly better from coast-to-coast—even way out west, where the Ninth Circuit spans nine states from conservative Arizona, Idaho, and Alaska to liberal California, Washington, and Hawaii. There, you will find a 29-judge court, which is currently dominated by Democratic appointees. Sixteen of whom were named to the court by presidents Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. However, more than a dozen of the Ninth Circuit’s current active judges will be 65 or older next year. There are already four available slots for appointees.
But that’s out west, you say….
So let’s get a bit closer to home. Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all come together under the Third Circuit. There are currently three vacancies. On June 19, Stephanos Bibas was appointed by President Trump to fill a seat that has been left open since July 1 of 2015—a seat rightfully due an appointment by President Obama—a seat Mitch McConnell would not allow him to fill.
So here’s my question:
Do you know Stephanos Bibas?
I have to say, on paper, according to Wikipedia, he seems very impressive.
Bibas was born in New York City to Greek immigrant parents, graduated high school at the age of 15, then enrolled in Columbia University, and graduated from there at the age of 19. Along the way he won the first place speaker award in the World Debate Championships at Oxford.
At Yale Law School, he joined the moot court and was awarded prizes for the best oralist and best team. He also served as a symposium editor on the Yale Law Journal.
Since 2006, Bibas has been a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He received the Robert A. Gorman Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2008. He previously taught at the University of Chicago Law School and the University of Iowa College of Law and was a research fellow at Yale Law School.
Bibas holds a J.D. from Yale Law School (1994), a B.A. and M.A. in jurisprudence from Oxford University (1991), and a B.A. in political theory, graduating summa cum laude from Columbia University (1989).
Bibas is the 15th-most-cited law professor at the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. courts of appeal, and state high courts as well as the fifth-most-cited professor of criminal law and procedure by law professors.
Stefanos Bibas is 48 years old.
This is a lifetime appointment.
Is that really all you need to know?
Stefani Deoul is the author of the YA mystery novel On a LARP from Bywater Books. Contact Stefani.