Growing Threats and Harms From the Rightwing Judiciary

Floor Speech

Date: March 9, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, this is a very important topic that we are here tonight to discuss, the rightwing reactionary judiciary.

I will start by reading a quote that was set out in an article written by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and published in The Washington Post back in June 2022. They cited President George Washington, our Nation's first President, in his 1796 Farewell Address, where he cautioned that American democracy was fragile. ``Cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government,'' he warned.

He was warning us about what could happen to our democracy. The article that Woodward and Bernstein wrote in June 2022 was talking about the scandal that they broke back in the 1970s involving Republican President Richard Nixon and how he tried to subvert the electoral process by burglarizing the Democratic Party headquarters and, by espionage, sabotage, and false information, how he used that to arrive at his opponent in the general election, how he subverted the Democratic primary process to select the candidate that he wanted to run against, and he was successful.

It was Woodward and Bernstein who revealed what is known as the Watergate scandal, which led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. In his wake, he left a game plan as to the weaknesses in our democracy that he was able to exploit.

Then along comes Donald Trump. This is what the June 2022 article was about, how Trump took it to the next level, another Republican President. What Trump tried to do in subverting our electoral process was to actually subvert the electoral college count process, first by the fake electors scheme and then using them to force the Vice President to stop the count and send the fake electors and the electoral count back to the States so that he could win the election.

When that failed, President Trump dispatched an armed and violent mob to the Capitol to actually stop the counting of the electoral votes. That is our history.

It was the United States Supreme Court that stopped Richard Nixon, but if it had been Donald Trump and today, I am not sure that today's Supreme Court would have stopped Trump. Why? Because our Court has been captured by rightwing extremists. Our United States Supreme Court has been packed by Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell with extreme rightwing ideologues who are intent on taking us back into an archaic time in the Nation's history when women had no rights, Blacks had no rights, anyone other than White males in America had no rights, not equal rights.

This Court was packed with these rightwing extremist ideologues when Mitch McConnell refused to engage in the appointment and confirmation process for Merrick Garland 10 months before the Presidential election, announcing the theory that there is a new rule that, during an election year, we can't appoint a new Justice to the Supreme Court.

That position, caused by the death of Scalia, was left vacant until such time as Republicans won the Senate and Donald Trump came into office and was able to appoint a Justice to the Supreme Court that should have been a Justice appointed by President Obama.

He got two more picks during his years, and he picked Federalist Society judges. He had made a campaign pledge to appoint them. These are Justices that come from a political organization, the Federalist Society, with political ideals and objectives.

They have three new Justices appointed. They already had two that were on there, so now we have a supermajority, every one of which belongs to the Federalist Society and every one of which was selected by the Federalist Society for their seat. These Justices have a program that they are carrying out. It is the Republican playbook.

One of the things they want to do is take away power from President Trump, not because of any lofty ideal but simply because it is President Biden who announced the policy.

One of the things that is getting ready to happen is the Court is prepared to strike down student debt relief for millions of Americans, despite the fact that the clear language in the statute allows for the President to have that discretion. The Supreme Court will find a way, as the lower courts have done, to prevent the President, this President, from exercising that executive authority.

It is another demonstration of why the public has lost confidence in the United States Supreme Court. With that loss of confidence in the Court comes a loss of confidence in the rule of law.

Justice and the rule of law are bedrocks of our democracy. If the people lose confidence, it doesn't work.

What is the solution to this dilemma that we face? I have a couple that I have proposed. One would expand this United States Supreme Court, unpack it. They say that you are trying to pack it, but no, we are trying to unpack it. They packed it. Republicans packed it. We are trying to unpack it.

It is for the sake of our democracy that we need to pass legislation that unpacks the Court and expands it with four additional seats.

Something else we need to do is that we have reached a point where lifetime tenure does not work anymore. We have Federalist Society Justices on the Court and Federalist Society judges throughout the Federal courts who have lifetime tenure. They are young. They can change our society for the next 30, 40, 50 years, so we have to have reform in our courts.

We have to expand the ranks of the Federal district court judges, the Federal circuit court judges, and, yes, the United States Supreme Court.

We need to add term limits to the United States Supreme Court so that there is a regular infusion of modernity and sensibility to the Court so that it does not grow old, stale, and stodgy. I have legislation that would create such a regimen of 18-year term limits for Supreme Court Justices.

Last but not least, you would be surprised to know that, unlike other Federal court judges who are bound by a code of conduct, the Supreme Court Justices are not bound by a code of conduct.

That is how you can have a situation where a Supreme Court Justice can have a wife that is taking money from interests with cases before the Court, putting that money in the pocketbook of that spouse which is enjoyed by her husband sitting on the Supreme Court.

They don't have a code of ethics, so we need a code of conduct that is applicable to the Justices on the Supreme Court, and I have legislation that would provide for that, which needs to be passed as well.

I know, Congresswoman Lee, that I have exhibited extreme wokeness today, and I apologize to this body for descending into wokeness, but I wouldn't really want to be any way other than woke.