Let's talk about what we can do about the 220 judges Mitch McConnell has crammed down America's throat. Let's talk about the citizens brigade of court watchers. Because justice matters. All Glenn Kershner here, welcome to another episode of my podcast, Justice Matters. As you all may know, on Sunday I try to do a longer format podcast. I try to take a deep dive into one of the consequential legal issues of the day. If you follow me on YouTube or on Twitter, you probably know that what I try to do is take my 30 years of experience as a federal prosecutor.
I try to take what I learned from 30 years inside the federal government and apply it to legal issues of the day, identify a legal issue, try to put it in the larger context, and then try to talk about some proposed solutions.
So I'll get the housekeeping matters out of the way. First, you can find me right here on YouTube. Glenn Kershner to you can also find me on Twitter. Also Glenn Kershner, too. I'm on Twitter all day and night trying to answer your legal questions. And then finally, this is an all volunteer affair here. It's just my wife and I producing these daily videos. So if you'd like to support our effort, you'd like to support our content.
You can go to Patreon dot com and become a patron and support what it is we're trying to do here.
So with that, let's talk about the topic of the day. And the topic of the day is the citizens brigade of court watchers.
You know, gone are the days when all we had to do was vote, send our elected officials to Washington and things would generally turn out just fine. Yeah, we see how that's been working out for us over the past four years or so, it is time for full citizen participation in every aspect of our government.
And that's why I've come up with the citizens brigade of court watchers, working together with a lot of other good folks who are interested in attacking the problem that we're experiencing now and that we will continue to experience as a result of these two hundred and twenty Mitch McConnell judges that, as I say, have been crammed down America's throat.
So you may have heard me talk in the past about sort of a three part approach to fixing what Mitch McConnell broke. Right. Mitch McConnell has soiled the federal bench. He has degraded the quality of the federal judiciary. But we're going to work to get it back.
And the three part plan that I've talked about before, I only want to talk about one piece of that plan today, but it involves, first of all, investigating come January, the confirmation testimony of every single Mitch McConnell judge, particularly the ones who have been rated not qualified by the Bar Association, the American Bar Association, investigating their testimony, finding the perjury if it exists.
If it doesn't, they have nothing to worry about while they have something else to worry about.
We'll talk about that in a minute. But if the FBI investigates their testimony before the Senate and they find perjury, then those judges are charged, they're impeached and they're removed easy. The other piece of it, of the three part approach, is adding more judges to the federal bench and this is a win win.
You know why? Because the federal judiciary has been screaming for resources.
They want more judges to help attack the backlog of cases, including the backlog of appeals. So if we add additional appellate court judges, one, we give them what they need, more resources to do their work on behalf of, you know, deciding cases that appeals for the American people.
They do it more efficiently and in in a in a more timely manner.
And two, if we add judges to the appellate courts, it will neutralize the Mitch McConnell judges, the far right wing ideologues, the not qualified judges. Win win and adding judges to the courts is constitutional and it's lawful. So those are the other two pieces I want to talk about, one piece in particular, the Citizens Brigade of court watchers.
So let's talk about what the federal courts look like presently.
So there are 94 federal districts and they are there.
So there is at least one federal district court in all of the 50 states. Some have multiple federal districts. So I'm here in Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. Virginia, for example, has two federal districts.
They have the Eastern District of Virginia and the western district of Virginia.
Right to federal districts. So there are ninety four total federal districts in the United States that also includes Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.
And so there are, you know, a few hundred judges and there are actually a total of 870 federal judges, give or take.
Two hundred and twenty of them have been, you know, run through this Mickey Mouse confirmation process under Donald Trump, by Mitch McConnell, right over the past four years.
And here's the breakdown of those. Two hundred and twenty judges. About a hundred and sixty five or so are in the federal district courts.
The trial courts, 53 are in the appellate courts, the second the second tier of federal judges. And then, of course, two, maybe soon to be three are on the Supreme Court.
And I want to repeat this at every opportunity of those fifty three appellate court judges that Mitch McConnell has crammed down our throats.
Those are that that middle tier of judges, the appellate court judges who in a very real sense set policy set precedent for the United States of America, the federal judiciary and our federal criminal justice system.
Of those fifty three appellate court judges, not one. Is African-American.
That's Mitch McConnell at his worst and his most transparent, that's his handiwork, so 220 Mitch McConnell judges we are now having to contend with.
And that, on the one hand, sounds like a lot of judges, but as compared to all the state, county and local judges, two hundred and twenty judges is not that many.
I want to talk about some of the I won't call them highlights, some of the lowlights, just a couple of the Mitch Mitch McConnell judges that we have to contend with as citizens of the United States.
Let me talk about, first of all, this kid named Justin Walker in his 30s, federal judge, he's a Mitch McConnell protege.
And I want to use a couple of these judges as an example of why we need a citizens brigade of court watchers.
Justin Walker is a Mitch McConnell protege.
And after Justin Walker taught legal writing in law school for a few years, Mitch McConnell plucked him out and made him a federal district court judge in Kentucky. He was raided by the American Bar Association as not qualified to be a federal district court judge. Didn't matter to Mitch McConnell.
He crammed them down our throats on a straight party line vote.
He had no business. He had no business becoming a federal district court judge, Justin Walker. But there you have it. Now, at his swearing in ceremony, this young man, Justin Walker.
The swearing in ceremony of a judge is a lovely occasion. We call it an investiture ceremony when they don the robe for the first time and there administer the oath before they take the bench and begin serving as a judge.
I've been to lots and lots of investiture ceremonies in my 30 years as a prosecutor because lots of my friends and colleagues and acquaintances were nominated to be judges and they would hold an investiture ceremonial swearing in ceremony.
I had the good fortune to be a keynote speaker at a judge's investiture ceremony, a friend of mine who was nominated by Barack Obama to be a judge.
They're lovely affairs, all of the judges of the court that this new judge is about to join their all their family members. Are there prosecutors, defense attorneys, the whole legal community. It's a it's a grand affair affair. And they're really very heartwarming.
Justin Walker's swearing in ceremony, his investiture ceremony, he gave a speech.
And here is just some of what he said, and this is going to give you some insight into who now Judge Justin Walker is, first of all, as I say, he was rated not qualified to be a federal district court judge by the American Bar Association.
So one of the things he did was he thanked, tongue in cheek the American Bar Association.
And here's what he said, quote, Thank you for serving as an enduring reminder that although my legal principles are prevalent, they have not yet prevailed.
And although we are winning, we have not yet won because that's what a judge is supposed to be all about.
His legal principles prevailing, him winning his speech continued, although we are winning, we have not yet won, and that although we celebrate today, we can not take for granted tomorrow or we will lose our courts and our country to critics who call us terrifying and describe us as deplorable.
Close quote. That was Justin Walker's speech as he was being sworn in as a federal district court judge. You know, that's the kind of ill tempered partisan rant. That would make, you know, Brett, I like Beer Cavanaugh proud. But it is no way for a judge to take on the weighty responsibility of dispensing justice fairly to all litigants. And how has he been deciding cases?
Well, he decided a case involving a woman named Chelsea Nelson, a photographer in Louisville, Kentucky, Miss Nelson sued, claiming that the Louisville law called the Fairness Doctrine a law that prohibited discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation.
That law interfered with her religion, with her Christianity, because she wanted to be able to refuse to provide services for gays, for lesbians, for same sex couples.
She didn't want to have to suffer the indignity of having to be a photographer at a same sex wedding ceremony.
And Judge Walker ruled her way.
Saying that, of course, you know, if your religious beliefs would be offended by having to serve gay or lesbian or same sex couple, then, you know, merchants and store owners and businesses and restaurants can certainly discriminate.
Against gays, lesbians, same sex couples, because, you know, Christianity in all.
So basically he ruled that her Christian beliefs gave her the right to discriminate against people.
Those people. I guess that's how Justin Walker implements. What he referred to in his swearing in speech, that's how his views, quote, win, close quote.
And that's because he doesn't want to, quote, lose our courts or our country, close quote.
You know, to same sex couples. That's Justin Walker. That's that's just a flavor. Of what Mitch McConnell has given us.
And then, by the way, after Justin Walker, who was raided by the ABA, the American Bar Association, as not qualified to be a federal district court judge, but Mitch McConnell made him one anyway.
A few months after that, Mitch McConnell elevated him and had Trump nominate him again, this time for the powerful and prestigious D.C. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals bench, where Justin Walker sits and serves today next to his 52 fellow across the country, appellate court judges, all 53 and not an African-American judge among them. That's Mitch McConnell's handiwork. Let me just talk about one other judge briefly, and then we're going to talk about assembling the Citizens Brigade and what we can accomplish.
Naomi Raoh was the Trump administration official until 2019 when Donald Trump put her up to be a judge again on the prestigious D.C. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, Mitch McConnell crammed down our throats on a straight party line vote.
And, you know, as an appellate court judge, her decisions that she's authored, she authored a dissent. Let me talk about a dissent versus a majority opinion in a minute. She authored a dissent that has been soundly mocked by legal scholars, and she also authored a majority opinion.
So let me talk about appellate court practice and appellate court judges, why we call some legal opinions, dissents and some we call them the majority opinion.
Any time a case is argued before a federal appellate court, there are three judges that sit right.
There's just one trial court judge that hears cases and the trial court.
But three appellate court judges will sit to hear an appellate argument and appellate case.
And in one case, she disagreed with the other two judges and she authored this ridiculous dissenting opinion.
So the two judges, one of them authored the majority opinion and then she issued a dissent that I'm not even going to go into the details of it.
As I say, it was mocked by legal scholars.
Then there was a case where she actually managed to be in the majority. She convinced one other judge to join her with a different judge dissenting.
And that case that she authored that majority opinion in, it ended up getting reviewed by all of the appellate court judges on the D.C. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.
It was called an en banc review where it was such a hot button legal opinion, so questionable that the full court granted review.
And guess what?
The full court smacked down her legal reasoning, in her majority opinion, sort of figuratively crumpled up her legal opinion and threw it in the judicial trash bin, overruling her.
And I welcome you to read all these opinions.
And I don't even know that you have to be a lawyer to see how poor her legal reasoning is in the dissent that she authored.
It was like a virtual love letter to Donald Trump's executive power and prowess.
Another judge crammed down our throats, that's just two examples of the 220 federal court judges that Mitch McConnell has given America.
So what do we do about it? What do we do about the Justin Walkers and the Naomi Rouse and the rest of the Mitch McConnell judges, the citizens brigade of court watchers?
It's time for civic engagement. So think about this.
Most of what federal government officials elected or appointed or hired do is not done in the light of day. Right. You can't go over to the Defense Department and see what it is they're doing. You can't go to the State Department and sit in on State Department meetings.
You can't go to the EPA and see how Donald Trump's director of the EPA, EPA Administrator Wheeler, is his name, former coal industry lobbyist, is dismantling the protections and the safeguards, you know, to try to keep our environment clean. You can't see those things.
How about Congress, the the legislative branch, you know? Yeah.
You can go watch them give a speech on the floor of the House or the Senate, but that's not really how or where the work is getting done, how the sausage is made. Right. Making laws is like making sausage. You don't really want to see what goes into it and you're not allowed to see what goes into it because they go into these closed door meetings and committees and smoke filled back rooms.
And we, the American people don't get to watch what goes into it, what kind of lobbyist money goes into it? Who has influence on the lawmakers? But the judiciary, all court matters are open to the public all day, every day, with almost no exceptions, you know, it's less than one percent of the cases that get close to the public as a result of maybe national security matters being discussed. Courts are public and we can go in there every day and court watch.
We can see what these judges are doing, especially these two hundred and twenty Mitch McConnell judges, including the ones rated not qualified by the American Bar Association.
That gives us an opportunity for full citizen participation. So that's why I've been talking with some other really good folks who are working on this project, and my piece of it is going to be the citizens brigade of court watchers.
It will be a larger project and there will be more there will be more coming after the first of the year. But here is how we envision the Citizens Brigade working. So. We're going to put together a training video short an hour or two, probably a couple of hours, and this, mind you, is not a money making affair. This is all free, all volunteer. This is like, you know, you can serve in the military.
Well, now you can serve as a civilian in the democracy.
And after watching a video which will help you understand how to spot judicial misconduct when you see it in the courtroom and I'm drawing on my 30 years of experience, having appeared before about 200 judges give or take, I've seen judicial misconduct in action.
Sometimes I have to write it up and report it when I was a prosecutor. It's not hard to spot.
And you don't have to be a lawyer. You don't have to have any legal training. But we're going to put a training video together for those folks who want to volunteer one day a week, two days a week, one day a month, five business days a week to sit in courtrooms, especially of these two hundred and twenty Mitch McConnell judges.
That's not a lot of judges. At the end of the day, think how many citizens are out there wanting to engage, wanting to help improve our federal government, our judiciary, wanting to help hold accountable these Mitch McConnell judges?
Two hundred and twenty. That's not a lot because there are thousands, tens of thousands of us, maybe hundreds of thousands of us who want to tackle this problem as citizens. And so you'll have a training video available and you'll know the misconduct when you see it in court. And here's the thing, folks. Most of what goes on in these public courtrooms, it never leaves the courtroom. Why? Because there are not transcripts of it generated and there's nobody to watch it and report it.
So the only time there's a transcript. Now, there are transcripts of appellate court arguments, but in the trial courts and there are far more trial court judges. Mitch McConnell, trial court judges, there's only a transcript created of what is said by everybody in court if. The case results in a conviction, and if one of the parties appeals the conviction and they order a transcript to be used in the appeal, so the vast majority of what is said in court every day.
It's here and gone. It's not captured, it's not reported out. That's where the citizen's brigade comes in. So a training video a couple hours long, we'll tell you what to keep your eye out for. And when you see it and you will see it, I've seen judges misbehave in court. I've seen judges engage in misconduct in court in my 30 years. Here's what you do, you go to U.S. court stuff and there is a very simple, intuitive, short one and a half page, long form complaint of judicial misconduct and it only and we're going to have all of this in the video, in the tutorial.
And it's going to be basic for the layman, not for the lawyer. It asks you five questions, that judicial misconduct form. Questions like your name and contact information, the name of the judge. Does the complaint concern the behavior of a judge in a particular case? What's the case, name and number? Are you a party to the case?
And you can just check a box party lawyer or other other. I'm a citizen. I'm a court watcher. I'm part of a project to hold accountable judges who engage in misconduct. And then just briefly describe what you saw. It's five questions, couldn't be easier, and then that complaint gets filed.
First of all, you're going to forward it to the organization that is involved in a project to ensure excellence in courts and the Citizens Brigade Court watching is going to be one piece of it.
And it gets filed at US courts dot gov with the committee responsible for dealing with complaints of judicial misconduct.
All of this, folks, all of this civic engagement, all of this citizen participation to fix what Mitch McConnell broke is so doable.
It actually is easy if we have the will. If we have the determination. To actually participate in our democracy more than just voting, more than just the occasional march, more than just putting together the occasional fundraiser for candidates that we're supporting, this is civic engagement at its best. And this is where if we want our democracy to continue to thrive, to continue to grow, to continue to improve.
The first thing we do is we get out in numbers, we get out and vote in numbers too big to rig and to real to steal this we know and we're doing it every day and we'll do it up until November 3rd when we if we haven't yet voted, we will vote in person on November 3rd here in Virginia.
I got to vote in person early a couple of weeks ago. And then. Donald Trump will lose in a landslide. He can launch his little Mickey Mouse attacks, he can engage in whatever nefarious tactics he wants to engage in.
He will lose. He will lose. But that doesn't mean we can stop I mean, I think we're all kind of OK now that citizen engagement, citizen participation means more than just voting.
And sitting in a courtroom once a week, once a month or as often as you like. And watching the Mitch McConnell judges and the other judges, I don't care who you were appointed by. Republican, Democrat, it doesn't matter, we can watch all of the judges and report out any misconduct by any judges, but we're already seeing it from the Mitch McConnell judges.
We have to capture it, report it and then.
Accountability. Accountability and some of these not qualified Mitch McConnell judges, if they get enough misconduct reports lodged against them, they'll just self select. They'll, you know, leave the bench, they'll go work for some Republican dark money organization and try to infect our democracy that way. We'll get after that to. Folks, as always, please stay safe, please get out and vote in numbers too big to Reagan to real to steal, and I look forward to talking with you all again tomorrow.