Franken launches full-throated attack on 'conservative activism' on courts

Republican senators and conservative jurists found themselves on the defensive after Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) blasted "conservative activism" on federal courts.

Franken, in a major speech Thursday evening before the American Constitution Society, sought to set the stage for a summer confirmation battle in the Senate over President Barack Obama's pick, Elena Kagan, to join the Supreme Court.

ADVERTISEMENT
The first-term senator launched a full-throated attack on originalism, the judicial philosophy often upheld by conservatives as an example for model nominees for the federal courts.

"Originalism isn’t a pillar of our constitutional history. It’s a talking point," Franken said, adding a jab at Chief Justice John Roberts for his famous comparison between judges and baseball umpires during Roberts's confirmation hearings.

"How ridiculous," Franken said. "Judges are nothing like umpires."

The Senate is set to take up the Kagan nomination in the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Franken serves, later this month.

With the battle over Kagan and other judicial nominees having stalled in the Senate, Franken also took a moment to castigate GOP filibusters of Obama's court picks.

"The Republican obstruction that is standing between you and the work you’ve agreed to do for your country is unacceptable. And we will continue to fight it," Franken said, apologizing to Goodwin Liu and Dawn Johnsen, the president's picks for a circuit court spot and director of the Office of Legal Counsel, respectively, who were both in the audience.