Demand Justice, a liberal judicial group, launched an ad campaign Tuesday attacking Democratic Delaware Sen. Chris Coons for supporting judicial nominees who did not explicitly endorse Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that began the arduous process of desegregating public schools.
Coons, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, will stand for reelection in 2020.
“Senator Coons has opposed unqualified Trump nominees — both for judgeships and administration positions — and has supported some whom he believes are qualified for their positions,” Coons spokesman Sean Coit told Politico. “Senator Coons has not voted for any nominee who opposes Brown v. Board, nor would he.”
Senate Democrats routinely ask President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees whether they believe Brown v. Board was correctly decided. Many nominees decline to answer, saying candidates for the bench should not parse particular precedents. That non-committal approach has attracted fierce criticism from civil rights groups.
It is not unusual for judicial nominees to be extremely circumspect about their views at a confirmation hearing. Justice Antonin Scalia famously declined to opine upon even foundational cases like Marbury v. Madison, a seminal decision from 1803 which first announced the power of judicial review.
Other conservative jurists have followed a different course. Justice Neil Gorsuch praised Brown at his confirmation hearing, saying the decision reflects the correct original understanding of the 14th Amendment. (RELATED: Judge Restores Nationwide Injunction, As Supreme Court Weighs Trump’s Asylum Restrictions)
According to Demand Justice, 33 Trump nominees would not say whether they support Brown. Demand Justice says Coon supported 18 of those 33 candidates.
Demonstrators aligned with the organization protested on Capitol Hill Tuesday, and briefly occupied Coons’s office in the Russell Senate office building.
Sen. Coons isn’t here. Protesters in his office respond with “shut it down” chants. pic.twitter.com/Ku1EXchTpW
— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) September 10, 2019
Coons received low marks from Demand Justice on a report card grading Senate Democrats on their opposition to Trump’s judicial nominees. During the last Congress, the Delaware Democrat often voted to advance Trump’s judicial nominees to a final floor vote, even if he did not ultimately support their confirmation. Using procedural tactics to delay or defeat Trump judges is a top priority for liberal judicial groups.
Demand Justice’s unique organization structure obscures the sources of its funding, though a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation found the group has ties to liberal financier George Soros.
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