On August 14, 2019, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Steven Menashi to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for the seat previously held by Thurgood Marshall, and most immediately held by Judge Dennis Jacobs. If confirmed, the Second Circuit will contain six Democratic appointed judges and six Republican appointed judges, with one other pending Trump nominee.
Based on his history of inflammatory rhetoric and the work he has done throughout his legal career, Alliance for Justice believes Menashi, if confirmed, will erode critical rights and legal protections. He will protect the wealthy and the powerful, not the rights of all Americans. Because little in Menashi’s ultraconservative career suggests he will be a fair-minded nonbiased jurist, Alliance for Justice strongly opposes his confirmation and calls on every senator to oppose. Every senator who votes for his confirmation will own Menashi’s vile quotes and positions contained in this report.
Menashi’s long written record opposing and undermining equity for communities of color, women, and LGBTQ Americans is deeply disturbing and does not portend well for a jurist who is tasked with serving in an impartial manner. For example, as a young adult, Menashi compared the collection of race data in college admissions to Germany under Adolf Hitler. He denounced women’s marches against sexual assault and bemoaned the fact that schools could discipline students who harassed women. He opposed “radical abortion rights advocated by campus feminists and codified in Roe v. Wade.” He argued against diverse communities, writing that “ethnically heterogeneous societies exhibit less political and civic engagement, less effective government institutions, and fewer public goods.” In another instance, Menashi defended Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi for stating “the obvious” when he wrote of “the superiority of Western civilization over Islam.” Menashi dismissed education about multicultural awareness (which “was never about understanding non-Western cultures” but “about denigrating Western culture to promote self-esteem among ‘marginalized’ groups”). In college writings, he defended a fraternity that threw a “ghetto party,” characterizing the event as “harmless and unimportant.” Menashi, while a student at Dartmouth, also wrote: “Equally ridiculous is the belief that chanting the old Dartmouth football cheer, ‘Wah-Hoo-Wah! Scalp ‘Em!’ proceeds from a racist belief in the inferiority of American Indians.”
As a lawyer, Menashi has been on the front lines in undermining rights and legal protections for millions, often times taking positions repudiated by courts. For example, Menashi opposed need-based financial aid explicitly because it purportedly hurts the wealthy and has been Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s right-hand man at the Department in eroding protections for students of color, sexual assault survivors, and victims of fraudulent for-profit colleges. In his own words, he was “responsible for providing legal advice on ALL aspects of the Department’s operations, including litigation, rulemaking, regulation, and enforcement.” (emphasis added). As a White House lawyer, he has worked closely with Stephen Miller on advancing Trump’s draconian immigration policy.
While Menashi’s record of bias would be troubling enough, he also attacks, demeans, and questions the motives of those with which he disagrees. For example, he accused an LGBTQ advocacy organization of exploiting the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student, for political and financial ends. To him, those who opposed war in Iraq – “pro-Saddam activists” were not well-meaning citizens with policy disagreements but were “totally unprincipled,” “thoroughly contemptible,” and were protesting “on behalf of despotism.” He claimed Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, was “dishonest” and “self-serving” and concerned “less about promoting students’ educational attainment than winning salary increases for public school teachers, regardless of their performance.” He argued that those enforcing civil rights laws weren’t doing so to use public accommodations, but to “vindicate a principle” about “religious beliefs.” He questioned whether lawyers for consumers and employees really “have the public’s well-being at heart.” He called the president of the People for the American Way “hysterical” because of his opposition to state funding of religious schools. He called animal rights activists “a contemptible bunch.”
Equally troubling for a future jurist who is supposed to dispassionately apply facts to law, Menashi has made claims that eerily echo the worst of Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric and dismissal of facts when they conflict with his ideology. Most illustrative, Menashi favorably repeated the Islamaphobic myth that General John Pershing executed Muslim prisoners in the Philippines with bullets dipped in pig’s fat. David French, writing in the National Review, wrote the following about Donald Trump’s retelling of the same story:
In one tweet Trump spread fake history, libeled an American hero, and signaled a willingness – even eagerness – to commit war crimes. That’s conduct unbecoming the lowliest officer in the military. Coming from the commander-in-chief, it’s a complete disgrace.
The same could certainly be said for a person seeking to sit on the second highest court in the country.
In sum, Menashi is an ultraconservative ideologue who will be neither fair nor unbiased in carrying out his agenda of eroding rights and legal protections on which millions of people in the Second Circuit rely.