Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported, with bipartisan support, the nomination of Myrna Pérez to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The full Senate should take up her nomination as soon as Senators return from recess in September.
Ms. Pérez’s 18-year legal record, as both a litigator and scholar, is exceptional. She has extensive experience litigating all aspects of complex cases in state and federal courts throughout the country. She has served as counsel in at least 54 cases, including before the U.S. Supreme Court and numerous federal circuit courts of appeal. She has also played a major role in the preparation of six amici curiae briefs to the Supreme Court.
Just as important, her record as one of the nation’s leading voting rights experts and a fierce advocate for fair elections demonstrates a passion for our democracy and equal justice that is seldom seen and should be standard for every judicial candidate, nominated by any president. As she told the Senate Judiciary Committee, she is driven by her belief that “[t]he right to vote keeps us free. It protects us from tyranny. It is preservative of all other rights.” Ms. Pérez went on to explain that, like the right to vote, the Constitution itself is fundamental to keeping Americans free and to her own philosophy as an advocate for equality for all under the law.
It is no surprise a nominee with Ms. Pérez’s depth of experience and passion for our democracy and Constitution garnered bipartisan support in Committee. Nevertheless, some Republicans were vicious in opposing her and launching baseless attacks. Most notably, Senators Chuck Grassley, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee – all of whom spoke against her in committee – tried to paint a character of a “dangerous” nominee and “radical activist” who will be a “partisan from the bench.”
Of course, her lifelong advocacy for voting rights is decidedly non-partisan. Ms. Pérez has worked to protect the franchise for all Americans, not those of just one party. In fact, Republican Senator Thom Tillis noted that her work as a lawyer was “consistent” regardless of which party would be advantaged, citing her representation of a North Carolina Republican candidate Ms. Pérez argued was impacted by voter suppression. And contrary to Senator Grassley’s baseless attacks at her hearing in July, the non-partisan pro-voting rights article (with a headline she did not write or approve) that Ms. Pérez wrote before her nomination does not suggest she will be anything but a fair and nonbiased jurist. As she testified, the body of that article, which she did write, “does not mention any political party.” Ms. Pérez further testified that she believes it is critical “to ensure that any prospective litigant before me knows that they are getting an impartial and fair hearing where they will not be prejudged and where they will be given the opportunity to present their case.” She made clear her passion for the “rule of law” and the “impartial adjudication” of justice.
Unsurprisingly, Ms. Pérez has earned respect and support from advocates, politicians, and civil servants across the ideological spectrum. For example:
- Kim Wyman, Washington State’s Republican Secretary of State, emphasized that Ms. Pérez, “has the respect of election officials on both sides of the aisle.” She added that Ms. Pérez “provided invaluable, unbiased, and apolitical insight, which I also believe she will bring to the bench…No matter what side of the discussion we were on, I knew she and her team would provide reliable analysis and application of the law above any desired ideological position.”
- Carl Wicklund, former Executive Director of the American Probation and Parole Association, wrote, “I find that her dedication to the protection and restoration of voting rights transcends any political party allegiances. Her driving motivations have always been, and continue to be, principle and faith—not politics. It is precisely for this reason that she has built strong, lasting relationships with people across the political spectrum.”
- Judd Choate, the Director of the Division of Elections at the Department of State of Colorado and the former president of the National Association of State Election Directors, who worked with both Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State, wrote: “Whether or not our positions have aligned, Myrna has always been deeply constructive, collaborative, thoughtful, and solution oriented….Myrna is, first and foremost, an incredibly bright attorney. What’s more, she is realistic, reasonable, and deeply respectful of different points of view.”
- Law enforcement from across the political spectrum, including current and former police chiefs, sheriffs, and federal, state, and local prosecutors, wrote that Ms. Pérez “has spent her entire career as a civil rights attorney and public servant, frequently working alongside the law enforcement community . . . We are confident that . . . her conviction for what is fair and just will strengthen the integrity of our nation’s judiciary.”
In other words, to justify their opposition, Grassley, Cruz, and Lee had to ignore not only Ms. Pérez’s own record and testimony, but also her support from scores of leaders from across the aisle. That says more about them than her. In fact, what is clear is they don’t want judges who, like Ms. Perez, understand their role as judges and will in fact be fair and unbiased. They very much do want politically motivated judges, but from their own side of the aisle. It should not be lost, for example, that each voted to confirm jurists like John Bush, now a judge on the Sixth Circuit, who had spread birther conspiracies about President Obama and Michael Truncale, now a federal judge in Texas, who called President Obama an “unamerican imposter.” Senator Cruz blocked district court judge Halil Ozerden’s elevation to the Fifth Circuit because Ozerden had not done enough in Cruz’s words, to support “conservative causes.” In his stead, Republicans confirmed Cory Wilson, now a judge on the Fifth Circuit, who said that an ‘intellectually honest Democrat” was a “rare sighting” and “exotic creature,” and who made repeated character attacks on President Obama and Hilary Clinton.
Myrna Pérez’s advocacy as an attorney demonstrates precisely the kind of faith in the promise of our Constitution that federal judges depend on as they uphold that document and its core principles from the bench. She has both the character and experience necessary to serve on the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The full Senate should confirm her to the bench expeditiously.