ELECTION 2020

University of Iowa, Drake law students ask Iowa senators to wait until after the election on Supreme Court confirmation

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, hugs Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, after she arrived to watch the March 22, 2017, confirmation h
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, hugs Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, after she arrived to watch the March 22, 2017, confirmation hearing for Neil Gorusch before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Grassley chaired at the time. On Thursday, law students at the University of Iowa and Drake University called on the senators, who both now sit on the Judiciary Committee, to delay confirmation hearings for a new justice until after the Nov. 3 election. (The Gazette)

Law students and faculty for the University of Iowa and Drake University have told Iowa’s U.S. senators they are “strongly opposed” to consideration of any nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy before the Nov. 3 election.

“We are concerned that this nomination looks like a purely political grab that is 1) hypocritical and 2) undermines the legitimacy of our courts,” 176 students and faculty wrote to Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee is scheduled to begin confirmation hearings on President Donald Trump’s nominee, federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett, on Oct. 12.

“The Supreme Court is the backbone of our legal system,” they wrote. “As stakeholders in that system, we feel an obligation to stand up for its legitimacy and neutrality.

Approving any nomination before the election would contradict the senators’ comments in 2016 when the GOP-controlled Senate declined to consider former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the court, as well as precedents they cited in 2018.

The students and faculty cited by then-Judiciary Chairman Grassley that if he was chairman in 2020 he would not take up a nomination ahead of the election.

Grassley welcomed the feedback from Iowans, “which help inform his decisions,” spokesman Michael Zona said. However, he no longer chairs the committee.

Both senators cited precedent for proceeding.

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Zona said when the White House and Senate are not controlled by the same party, election-year Supreme Court vacancies tend not to be confirmed until after Americans have voted.

Ernst spokesman Ben Watson said. “Now, there is not a divided government, the president has put forward a nominee, and the senator is carrying out her duty as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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