Joni Ernst Backs Judge Who Wanted Attorneys For Fetuses

By Nikoel Hytrek

February 12, 2020

As soon as the impeachment trial was finished, Senate Republicans returned immediately to the task of voting on and confirming federal judges.

On Tuesday, by a narrow vote of 52-47, the Senate confirmed Andrew Brasher to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Iowa Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley were both among the senators who confirmed him.

Brasher attracted attention from judicial advocacy groups because the 38-year-old has a record of opposing reproductive and voting rights.

While Alabama’s solicitor general, Brasher supported a law allowing judges, in judicial bypass proceedings, to appoint an attorney for a fetus when considering a minor’s request for an abortion. Before a federal judge struck down the law, it would also have allowed district attorneys to testify about a minor’s level of maturity, and for her parents to be part of the case.

Brasher also challenged the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that employers provide contraception coverage to women.

His record on the question of voting rights is also problematic.

In 2013, Brasher filed a brief arguing that Alabama no longer needed federal oversight of its election laws. The oversight was imposed on the state in 1965 because of its laws that made it harder for African Americans to vote.

“The effects of those events on voting and political representation have now, thankfully, faded away,” the brief states.

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That basic argument was echoed in the majority decision issued by Chief Justice John Roberts in Shelby County v. Holder, the case that removed the preclearance requirement for states with a history of voter discrimination that wanted to change their voting laws.

In 2019, the Senate confirmed Brasher as a district judge in Alabama. With this confirmation, the Eleventh Circuit, which covers Alabama, Georgia and Florida, has a conservative majority.

On Wednesday morning, the Senate also confirmed four other conservative judges, though they don’t have the same controversies attached to their names.

Joshua M. Kindred, who was confirmed as the United States District Judge for the District of Alaska, was approved on a 54-41 vote.

Matthew Thomas Schelp was also confirmed, by a 72-23 vote, to be a district judge for the Eastern District of Missouri.

The Senate confirmed John Fitzgerald Kness to serve as a judge for the Northern District of Illinois with a vote of 81-12.

Philip M. Halpern was confirmed 77-19 for a district judgeship in the Southern District of New York.

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The following three judges are on the Senate’s Executive Calendar and will probably have confirmation votes later this week:

Barbara Bailey Jongbloed of Connecticut to be United States District Judge for the District of Connecticut; Diane Gujarati of New York to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York; and Scott H. Rash of Arizona to be United States District Judge for the District of Arizona.


By Nikoel Hytrek
Posted 2/12/20

  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].



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