Groups urge Senate panel to reject Trump's pick for Louisiana-based appeals court

Groups urge Senate panel to reject Trump's pick for Louisiana-based appeals court
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A host of civil rights, environmental and left-leaning judicial advocacy groups are ratcheting up their opposition to a key judicial nominee from President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE, urging a Senate panel to reject his pick for a federal appeals court based in Louisiana.

The Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights, the Serra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and the liberal Alliance for Justice (AFJ) argued Wednesday that Andrew Oldham is unfit for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

Oldham, who currently serves as general counsel to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), has been nominated as a circuit judge to oversee appeals from federal courts in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on his nomination Thursday.

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The Alliance for Justice and other groups are blasting the Trump nominee ahead of the vote, saying he previously helped Texas sue to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing the Clean Air Act, has defended Texas’s controversial voter-ID law and has been credited as the lead architect of the state’s effort to block the Obama-era Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs.

“Andrew Oldham’s background proves he is unfit to serve as an impartial federal judge," Kristine Lucius, executive vice president for policy at The Leadership Conference, said in a call with reporters organized by the Alliance for Justice.

"In addition to his egregious record attacking environmental protections, Oldham has worked to restrict voting rights, immigrant rights and women’s access to reproductive care as well as seeking to undermine gun safety."

“In a telling moment at his confirmation hearing, Mr. Oldham refused to agree that the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education was correctly decided.”  

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. (LDF) also sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday opposing Oldham’s nomination.

The letter notes the nominee's refusal during his confirmation hearing to say that the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education was rightly decided.

“No litigant with a civil rights claim before Mr. Oldham could trust he would fairly and impartially provide equal justice under the law,” Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s president and director counsel, said in the letter. 

“With civil rights under attack in this country, the Senate must use its ‘advice and consent’ power to ensure our nation is served by judges who will uphold the rule of law and equal rights for all Americans and reject nominees like Mr. Oldham whose views and careers reflect opposition to these core principles.”

Louisiana Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R), a member of the Judiciary Committee who has been critical of some Trump nominees, said Wednesday afternoon that he didn’t know whether he was going to vote to send Oldham's nomination to the Senate floor.

Kennedy last year memorably questioned Matthew Petersen, Trump’s nominee to be a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, during a committee hearing. Petersen later withdrew his nomination after a humiliating performance in front of the panel in which he struggled to answer basic questions from Kennedy about the law.

However, Oldham's home-state Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits Russia raises problems for GOP candidates Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate MORE (R) and Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSenate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials MORE (R) have praised his nomination ahead of the vote Thursday.

Cruz called him a "dedicated public servant who has spent a career defending Texas and the Constitution."

But the groups opposing Oldham are hoping to raise questions among members about his qualifications.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that Andrew Oldham has one of the most disturbing records we’ve seen in this or any other slate of candidates put forward by this president,” said AFJ president Nan Aron.

“He stands out for his intense hostility to equal rights for millions of his fellow citizens and his disdain for government."