Liberal group: Trump 6th Circuit nominee 'incredibly troubling'

Liberal group: Trump 6th Circuit nominee 'incredibly troubling'
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A liberal judicial advocacy group is raising the alarm over the corporate lawyer from Kentucky whom President Trump has tapped for the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

John Bush, a Kentucky corporate lawyer, has publicly criticized a landmark Supreme Court ruling that protected the freedom of the press, according to the Alliance for Justice.

While speaking at an event sponsored by the Federalist Society in 2009, Bush said the 1964 case New York Times v. Sullivan “probably wasn’t correctly decided" under an originalist reading of the First Amendment.

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In a unanimous decision, the court held that members of the press who are sued for libel by public officials can’t be held liable for damages unless the publisher knew or recklessly disregarded whether the statement being published was false.

“I would submit that from an originalist perspective New York Times v. Sullivan probably wasn’t correctly decided,” Bush said at the time. 

“It was, at the time of founding, recognized under libel law that if you had a false statement it didn’t matter if it were malicious or not, you were entitled to recovery and that was for the highest official in the land down to the regular citizen.”

Bush, a partner in the Louisville office of Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP and president of the Louisville Lawyers Chapter of the right-leaning Federalist Society, was one of 10 lower court appointments announced this week.

In a blog post Thursday, AFJ said Bush’s nomination seems designed to fulfill Trump’s pledge to weaken Constitutional protections for members of the press, whom he has called “the enemy of the people.”

Trump has repeatedly threatened to change libel laws to go after The New York Times for “getting him wrong.”

“The failing @nytimes has disgraced the media world. Gotten me wrong for two solid years. Change libel laws?” he tweeted in March with a link to a New York Post opinion piece alleging that the Times was biased against Trump and "ethically challenged."

In April, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus reportedly said on ABC’s “This Week” that the Trump administration has looked at “changing the libel laws.”

Given Trump’s threats, AFJ’s Legal Director Daniel Goldberg called Bush’s nomination “incredibly troubling.”

“To find out he made this statement where he thinks this seminal case, which is critical to our democracy to ensure the press can do the essential work of holding public officials accountable, was wrongly decided,” he said.    

“There’s a reason we have the First Amendment and a reason we have freedom of the press, and that’s to hold public officials accountable.”  

Bush, coming from a red state with two Republican senators, is likely to advance to the confirmation process.

Under the Senate’s blue-slip rule, the Judiciary Committee writes to the home state senators of each nominee and asks for their approval. Kentucky is represented by Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLexington mayor launches bid for Congress Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics Meet the Iran hawk who could be Trump's next secretary of State MORE (R). 

Because Democrats no longer have the ability to filibuster judicial nominees, Josh Huder, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, argued in a blog post that blue slips have become a way for Democrats to oppose nominees. 

“With no other avenues to object, the minority has turned to its few remaining tools,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, the nuclear-option’s collateral damage includes the minority’s role in 'advice and consent' on nominations, and now appears to threaten advisory practices that stem from senatorial courtesy.”