Howard Nielson is President Trump’s nominee for a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Utah. Nielson’s record demonstrates his animosity to the rights of people of color, environmental protection, women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights. Nielson is so opposed to LGBTQ rights that he once argued that a judge who was gay should step aside from a marriage equality case. Significantly, Nielson was also involved in creating the infamous “torture memos” generated during the George W. Bush Administration, as well as a program that kept candidates with Democratic Party or progressive affiliations out of the Justice Department’s Honors Program.
The level of Nielson’s participation in the writing of the “torture memos” came to light during his confirmation hearing. Nielson worked in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the time the memos were written. During his hearing, he confirmed that he had input into the memos issued under the name of his boss. He also wrote a memo that gutted protections for persons in custody under the Geneva Conventions. In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee opposing Nielson’s nomination, retired military officers strongly condemned Nielson’s memo, pointing out that the Geneva Conventions “protect the servicemembers who take enormous risks to defend American values. Attempts, like Mr. Nielson’s, to create legal black holes that can justify torture and mistreatment betray those values and undermine our nation’s security.”
Nielson also fought against women’s reproductive rights, co-authoring an amicus brief in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in support of regulations that would have shut down clinics and made it nearly impossible for Texas women to access abortions.
Donald Trump nominated Nielson because he believes that he, like other Trump nominees, would be a rubber stamp for his radical agenda, which threatens women, workers, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and people of color. But we can fight back against this nomination and Trump’s efforts to pack our courts with extremists like Nielson. Our AFJAC toolkit will help you learn how.
- AFJ Snapshot: Howard C. Nielson (a report on Howard Nielson by our sister organization, AFJ)
- Stop Nielson Toolkit
- Letter from retired military officers criticizing Nielson’s memo that advocates for gutting Geneva Conventions protections against torture