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Legislatively Speaking

Lena C. Taylor

By the time you read this, Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be picking out drapes for her new office at One First Street, NE, in Washington, D.C. For those that don’t know, that is the address and permanent home of the United States Supreme Court. The problem is that Barrett will be moving into an office that really doesn’t belong to her. And yes, Barrett has knowingly received a stolen appointment to the court, twice!

Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, known as the Appointments Clause, empowers the president to nominate and, with the confirmation (advice and consent) of the United States Senate, to appoint public officials, including justices of the Supreme Court.

However, Republicans in Congress have decided that the Appointments Clause only applies to them, conservative justices, and for the most part, white judges. Barrett has been happy to go along with this inconsistent application of the law. In fact, it appears that as the next Supreme Court Justice to be confirmed, Barrett has no problem receiving a stolen seat on the court. Twice!

While Donald Trump has been trying to convince Black voters that no one has done more for them, he has been a party to the crime of stolen judicial seats from Black jurists. He has done more to keep Black judges of the bench than anyone in recent years. Let me explain.

In January of 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit had an opening for a judge. Then President Barack Obama nominated a Black woman by the name of Myra Selby to fill the open seat. Selby had served as both the first African American and first woman associate justice appointed to the Indiana Supreme Court. As the daughter of an attorney and school teacher, Selby had amassed impeccable credentials, prior to being appointed to the Indiana Supreme Court. Her impressive resume, which included being a former partner in a major law firm and the State of Indiana’s Health Care Policy Director, aided her successful statewide election to Indiana’s highest court, after her appointment ended.

Obama nominated Selby to sit on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois. U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell made it clear that Selby would never receive a confirmation hearing. In order for a nominee’s name to be moved forward, the two U.S. Senators from the nominee’s home state had to submit paperwork or the “blue slip” to move the nomination forward. The democratic U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, from Indiana, sent in the paperwork. The republican U.S. Senator Dan Coats, from Indiana refused to submit the paperwork and killed Selby’s nomination to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

McConnell held the seat open until Trump took office, in 2017. Trump appointed Barrett to the stolen 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judgeship. It is the same judicial seat she holds today. McConnell, emboldened after stopping many of Obama’s judicial appointments, has again pilfered another Supreme Court seat. While Selby has returned to private practice, Barrett stands ready to receive yet another stolen seat.

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