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Judge Asks Chief Justice to Investigate if McConnell Unethically Pressured a Judge to Retire So He Could Fill His Seat



In the photo above are the easily-identified Senator Mitch McConnell and the not as easily-identified federal Judge Justin Walker, 37, who is giving the U.S. Senate Republican Majority Leader a fist bump. The occasion of the unusual greeting was McConnell delivering a speech at Walker’s “investiture,” or official installation as a federal judge back in March.

Over the past decade or so Senator McConnell has tried to shape his legacy with three singular focuses. During the Obama era the Senate Majority Leader infamously said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

When that failed, the longest-serving leader of the U.S. Senate’s Republican caucus decided to deny President Obama his rightful, final U.S. Supreme Court appointment, leaving Judge Merrick Garland out in the wind for 293 days. McConnell ensured Judge Garland’s nomination never even got as far as a committee hearing.

During the Trump years McConnell’s focus has not been to advance President Trump’s agenda – although he’s done that quite well – but to pack the federal judiciary with as many far right wing judges, often extremists, as humanly possible.

Humanly, but now questions are arising about if he’s done so ethically.

As The New York Times reports, a top federal judge on the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia – the courts that hear more U.S. government cases than any others – has asked Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to order an investigation into a “coveted” D.C. Circuit opening.

Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan, who was confirmed by a 97-0 vote, last week asked Justice Roberts to direct a different Appeals Court Circuit to investigate a complaint about the retirement and the circumstances surrounding the retirement of Judge Thomas B. Griffith.

The complaint was filed by a progressive advocacy group called Demand Justice. The group’s website says it is “fighting to restore the ideological balance and legitimacy of the federal courts by advocating for reform and vigorously opposing extreme nominees.”

According to the Times Majority Leader McConnell stands accused of “contacting appeals court judges nominated by Republican presidents to encourage them to retire. In the case of Judge Griffith, his retirement opened the way for President Trump to nominate Justin Walker, a 37-year-old protégé of Mr. McConnell’s whom the senator had ardently promoted for the seat.”

The Times does not even suggest in its report that there’s any question that McConnell has been urging conservative judges to retire.

“With the number of federal judicial vacancies to fill nearly exhausted,” The Times reports, “Mr. McConnell has been urging those contemplating retirement to step aside this year if they want to assure that their successors will be nominated by a Republican president and confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate.”

Walker clerked for now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, was deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association (ABA) when he was first nominated to the federal bench by President Trump. Trump quickly turned around and “promoted” him the the D.C. Court of Appeals.

“The coordinated manner of Majority Leader McConnell’s involvement in the judges’ decision-making is quite unprecedented and raises significant ethical questions for the judges who heed his advice,” Demand Justice said in its request calling for a “thorough inquiry into the judge’s announcement and scheduled retirement, including when and how the decision to retire was made, and with whose input, is crucial.”

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