Senators, Representative and Civil Rights Leaders: Duncan Unfit for Lifetime Appointment as Federal Judge

Courts News 04.24.18

WASHINGTON – Today, members of Congress and civil rights leaders held a telephone press briefing in opposition to President Trump’s nomination of Stuart Kyle Duncan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Senate is expected to vote today on Duncan’s nomination as a lifetime judge.

Click here for a recording of the call.

Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Assistant Democratic Leader; along with Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Judicial Nominations Working Group; were joined on the call by Kristine Lucius, executive vice president for policy, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Rachel Tiven, CEO, Lambda Legal; Derrick Johnson, president and CEO, NAACP; Marge Baker, executive vice president for policy and program, People For the American Way; Nan Aron, president, Alliance for Justice; Mara Keisling, executive director, National Center for Transgender Equality; and Andrea Senteno, MALDEF legislative staff attorney.

“Throughout his career, Mr. Duncan has taken on case after case in which he has taken ideological, extreme positions. Any one of these would be alarming on its own—and all of them together paint an unmistakable picture of a nominee who would not uphold women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, or civil rights. I strongly oppose his nomination,” said Senator Patty Murray.

“Kyle Duncan’s controversial record left me with too many doubts about his willingness to uphold the constitutional rights of all Americans. I had no choice but to oppose Mr. Duncan’s nomination. It is clear that this administration is trying to radically reshape the federal judiciary. Mr. Duncan is an example of someone who will bring deep experience with conservative culture wars, rather than a diverse and apolitical legal practice, to the bench,” said Senator Chris Coons.

“Kyle Duncan is almost a Saturday Night Live caricature of the judicial nominees who have come from the Trump Administration. I’ve said that these judicial nominees are legal Neanderthals, and Kyle Duncan is straight out of the Stone Age. He’s not only out of the mainstream, he’s out of the stream completely. I have appeared before the Fifth Circuit and I have tremendous respect for its judges. He is unworthy to be on that court,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal.

“Kyle Duncan throughout his career has displayed across-the-board resistance to the advancement of civil rights,” said Congresswoman Norton, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Judicial Nominations Working Group. “The CBC has forcefully called on the Senate to reject Duncan’s nomination. We are increasingly alarmed that the Senate continues to move Trump’s most objectionable nominees but are encouraged by the strong opposition mounted by Senate Democrats, and the CBC will continue to stand arm in arm with them.”

“Stuart Kyle Duncan is the latest in an extensive line of deeply disturbing Trump judicial nominees,” said Kristine Lucius, executive vice president for policy at The Leadership Conference. “Duncan is on the far-right fringe. He has led the right-wing movement to diminish LGBTQ rights, including the rights of transgender children and the right to marriage equality. He has worked to undermine DACA and remove protections from Dreamers. And he has defended the monster voter suppression law in North Carolina, which a federal appeals court struck down. Our communities deserve to have their cases heard by judges who are fair and open-minded, not by ideologues fighting a culture war and carrying water for this president.”

“Kyle Duncan has made a career for himself targeting LGBT children and families,” said Rachel B. Tiven, CEO of Lambda Legal. “The idea that Mr. Duncan will cast aside his bigoted beliefs overnight, and miraculously transform into an impartial judge, is ludicrous and reckless. Every Senator who votes for Mr. Duncan knows exactly what they are getting and will be accountable for his decisions on the bench. Lambda Legal will keep fighting for equality in court, because the law is on our side.”

“Kyle Duncan is extraordinarily unfit to be appointed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO. “Duncan has a track record of hostility, seeking to undermine or dismantle the rights of African Americans and other communities of color.”

“Kyle Duncan’s record of working against the rights of voters, of women, of immigrants and of LGBTQ people makes him the among the very worst of the narrow minded-elitists Donald Trump has been packing onto the federal courts,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way. “All people, no matter who they are, deserve to be treated equally when they have their day in court; there’s absolutely no way we can expect equal justice from someone like Kyle Duncan. He’s made clear that he’ll be a rubber stamp for the President and roll back the clock on rulings that protect our rights.”

“Today, we are raising the alarm not only about the upcoming vote on Kyle Duncan, but about what is happening to the entire Fifth Circuit in the Trump Administration, as Donald Trump continues his efforts to pack the courts with individuals who will implement his agenda. Duncan joins a list of other nominees, two already confirmed, whose dedication to undermining the rights of others is their most notable characteristic. Sadly, these people are being nominated to serve in a circuit that encompasses states with high percentages of people of color and people living in poverty, communities that already face pervasive discrimination,” said Nan Aron, president, Alliance for Justice.

“Kyle Duncan’s record of continually opposing the civil liberties of transgender people should disqualify him from being an appellate judge. The systemic inequalities faced by transgender people must be settled by fair-minded judges holding firm to the law, not ideologues hoping to rewrite the law with their own biases and contempt for others. Given his record of almost obsessive cruelty towards transgender people, it is impossible to believe Duncan would serve as a judge with any semblance of objectivity. We ask all Senators to join us in fighting for equality and fairness, not narrow-minded dogma,” said Mara Keisling, executive director, National Center for Transgender Equality.

“Bias and extremism should have no place in our federal courts,” said Andrea Senteno, MALDEF legislative staff attorney. “Kyle Duncan’s record disqualifies him from serving on a court one step away from the Supreme Court.”

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

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

About the NAACP: Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas here.

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.

Alliance for Justice is a national association of 130 organizations, representing a broad array of groups committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society.

The National Center for Transgender Equality is a national social justice organization based in Washington, DC. NCTE is devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people through education and advocacy on national issues of importance to transgender people. Founded in 2003, NCTE facilitates a strong and clear voice for transgender equality in our nation’s capital and around the country.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization.  Often described as the “law firm of the Latino community,” MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: