On June 7, 2018, President Trump announced his intention to nominate a Justice Department official, Chad Readler, to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. This announcement was particularly striking for one notable reason: on that very day, Readler had become a leader in the Trump Administration’s fight to destroy the Affordable Care Act and the protections it offers to millions of Americans. Readler, as acting head of the Civil Division, filed a brief to strike down the ACA, including its protections for people with preexisting conditions. If Readler and the Trump Justice Department are successful, the ACA’s protections for tens of millions of people, including cancer patients, people with diabetes, pregnant women, and many other Americans, would be removed.
Reaction to Readler’s assault on the ACA was swift and severe. Lamar Alexander, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, called Readler’s argument “as far-fetched as any I’ve ever heard.” Three career Justice Department lawyers refused to sign Readler’s brief, and a veteran Justice Department lawyer resigned in protest. An ideologically diverse group of legal scholars said Readler’s arguments “violate[d] basic black-letter principles” of law.”
It’s important to point out that Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley once opposed an Obama nominee because of a brief she filed regarding gun violence, saying “no one forced [her] to approve and sign this brief.” So we note: no one forced Chad Readler to concoct an argument to take health insurance from people with preexisting conditions, including the millions of Americans who would lose protections in the Sixth Circuit.
Moreover, Readler’s action in this context is consistent with his record. Throughout his career, Readler has been an ideological warrior. He professes that “[m]y day job is being a lawyer, (but) I want to work on cases that do have policy implications.”
As the acting head of the Department of Justice Civil Division under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Readler defended the Trump Administration’s most odious policies, including separating immigrant children from their parents at the border, while claiming that “[e]verything that the Attorney General does that I’ve been involved with he’s . . . being very respectful of precedent and the text of the statute and proper role of agencies.”
His track record is equally atrocious in other respects. He has tried to undermine public education in Ohio; supported the efforts of Betsy DeVos to protect fraudulent for-profit schools; fought to make it harder for persons of color to vote; advanced the Trump Administration’s anti-LGBTQ and anti-reproductive rights agenda; fought to allow tobacco companies to advertise to children, including outside day care centers; sought to undermine the independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and advocated for executing minors.
Chad Readler’s record of diehard advocacy for right-wing causes suggests he will be anything but an independent, fair-minded jurist. Alliance for Justice strongly opposes Readler’s confirmation.