Civil and Human Rights Coalition Denounces Senate Judiciary Committee Approval of Grasz, Willett, and Norris

Courts News 12.7,17

WASHINGTON – Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement after the Senate Judiciary Committee today voted, on a party-line basis, to advance the nominations of Leonard Steven Grasz to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Don Willett to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and Mark Norris to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee:

“Chairman Grassley and the Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans are continuing their mission to pack the courts with President Trump’s extreme judicial nominees. They are moving forward on nominees with troubling records, who have been found to be not qualified, and over the objection of home state senators. They are not only rubber stamping extreme nominees, they are packing the courts to remake them in Trump’s ideological image.

Mr. Grasz – only the fourth nominee since 1989 to receive a unanimous Not Qualified rating from the American Bar Association (ABA) – is a right-wing extremist who has worked throughout his career to restrict civil rights. The ABA found that Grasz has a record of bias, a lack of open-mindedness, and a rude and offensive demeanor. Today Republican senators disregarded this incredibly rare and troubling finding, which was based on extensive interviews with people who have experienced Grasz first-hand.

Mr. Willett, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court since 2005, has advanced a right-wing agenda throughout his career, both on and off the bench.  Justice Willett’s record of extreme legal views earned him a place on then-candidate Trump’s list of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees assembled last year by the far-right Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society.  Justice Willett lacks the impartiality and temperament necessary to serve as a federal judge, a lifetime appointment. He has a clear conservative bias, and a troubling record on sex discrimination, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, equal opportunity and affirmative action.

Mr. Norris – who received a partial ABA rating of Not Qualified – has a fervent hostility to civil rights as demonstrated by legislation and policies he has promoted during his 17 years in the Tennessee State Senate. He has amassed a legislative record that demonstrates a radical right policy agenda, which makes it difficult to fathom that he would approach cases with fairness and an open mind if confirmed to serve as a federal judge. His troubling record has touched on voting rights, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and immigrants’ rights.

To a greater degree than any president in history, President Trump is attempting to advance his radical agenda by giving lifetime judicial appointments to individuals who have a demonstrated record of undermining civil and human rights. But the Senate has an independent role in evaluating these nominees and they must carefully consider whether each nominee is qualified and impartial. Our federal judiciary must be composed of judges who will rule fairly and without bias. Grasz, Norris, and Willett do not fit that mold, and we urge the full Senate to reject these nominees.”

Last month, The Leadership Conference sent a letter to the Senate urging opposition to Grasz. That letter is available here. The Leadership Conference also sent a letter urging opposition to Willett. That letter is available here. The Leadership Conference also sent a letter urging opposition to Norris. That letter is available here.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit