This week, judicial reform advocacy group Demand Justice released a list of judges they suggested a Democratic president choose from to fill future Supreme Court vacancies.
One judge who made that list is Iowa-native Jane Kelly.
Jane Kelly Floated Again
Kelly, a judge from Cedar Rapids who sits on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, was considered for a spot on the Supreme Court of the United States before.
After Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, she met with President Barack Obama as a possibility to replace him.
Though she didn’t get the nomination then, her name has come up a few times since.
Kelly currently serves on the Eighth Circuit, but before that, she spent the majority of her career serving as a federal public defender.
In that position, Kelly represented people who couldn’t afford to hire their own counsel in federal cases.
In 2013, Kelly was chosen for a seat on the Eighth Circuit. She was approved by the Senate on a 96-0 vote and her nomination went through in less than three months.
She’s the second woman to sit on the Eighth Circuit Court in its 122-year history, and she’s the only judge who spent her career as a public defender.
The United States Courts of Appeals decide appeals that come from the district court within the court’s circuit. There are 13 circuits in the United States. The Eighth Circuit covers Iowa, Arkansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
On the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most significant cases Kelly has worked involved the death penalty.
Not Your Typical Backgrounds
All of the judges on Demand Justice’s list have backgrounds outside of corporate law, which is the organization’s intent.
Though they all have law degrees, some of the potential justices aren’t judges.
Demand Justice also singled out people like James Forman, Jr., a professor at Yale Law School, Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Their backgrounds aren’t the only source of diversity though.
Of the 32 options, 19 are women, 21 are people of color and three belong to the LGBTQ community.
“In releasing this list, we also hope to make clear that the next Democratic president ought to approach the task of nominating judges with a new playbook––one that prioritizes unabashedly progressive lawyers and legal thinkers, who have all too often been pushed aside,” Demand Justice wrote on its website.
None of the current candidates have released lists of people they would consider for the Supreme Court, but many have said they would look for judges who don’t fit the typical, male, corporate model.
And the need for progressive judges is becoming more important for Democrats, especially if they want to get legislation passed.
Also this week, the Senate confirmed four new district judges.
Now, Trump has had 154 of his nominees confirmed to lifetime, federal appointments. Most of these judges are white, most are men, and most have connections to the Federalist Society or the Heritage Foundation both conservative judicial groups. Many of these judges are also young, in their 40’s and 50’s.
Groups like Demand Justice have called on the Democratic presidential candidates to release as list of potential judges, like Trump did during his campaign.
The Supreme Court could be a major barrier for civil rights and progressive ideals going into the future, and it could be like that for a long time. One solution is for a Democratic president to appoint their own justices, and this list is meant to give them a place to start.
by Nikoel Hytrek