After a long, bitter fight over his fitness to serve, Brett Kavanaugh is now an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In the aftermath of this bruising process, many civil rights and social justice advocates are likely feeling tired and demoralized. With Kavanaugh confirmed, the Supreme Court is likely to begin rolling back critical protections for people of color, women, and other vulnerable communities.
But for anyone who cares about the federal courts’ commitment to delivering equal justice for all, there is no time to lick wounds. The Supreme Court is just one piece of the federal judiciary. Of the thousands of cases that come before federal courts, only about 80 are argued before the Supreme Court each term.
In most cases, the last word goes to one of the 13 federal appeals courts, giving them enormous influence over the shape of American law. Since taking office, the Trump administration has been working to move these courts to the right, a campaign that continues Wednesday, when the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider two nominees to federal appeals courts, both of whom have troubling records on a wide range of civil rights issues.
One of them is Chad Readler, a nominee for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals who until recently led the Justice Department’s Civil Division. In that capacity, he was responsible for defending many of the Trump administration’s most reprehensible policies, including its inhumane separation of families at the U.S. border, its discriminatory ban on immigration from Muslim-majority countries, its relentless assaults on the health care of more than 50 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, and its efforts to suppress minority votes.