Jesuits urge nomination withdrawal


Staff & Wire Reports

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Tom Williams/Pool Image via AP)

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Tom Williams/Pool Image via AP)

Magazine of Jesuits urges withdrawal of Kavanaugh nomination


Associated Press

Friday, September 28

ROME (AP) — The magazine of the Jesuit religious order in the United States has publicly withdrawn its endorsement of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court justice following testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by the Jesuit-educated Kavanaugh and the woman accusing him of sexually assaulting her decades ago.

In an editorial posted late Thursday, America magazine said it had no special insight into whether Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford is telling the truth. But it said that the nomination was no longer in the interests of the country and “should be withdrawn.”

“If Senate Republicans proceed with his nomination, they will be prioritizing policy aims over a woman’s report of an assault,” the editors wrote. “Were he to be confirmed without this allegation being firmly disproved, it would hang over his future decisions on the Supreme Court for decades and further divide the country.”

The reversal is significant given Kavanaugh has repeatedly cited his Catholic faith and Jesuit education in defending himself against Ford’s accusations. In his opening statement Thursday, Kavanaugh twice referenced his years as a student at the Jesuit-run Georgeown Prep school in Maryland. Ford has accused a drunken Kavanaugh of assaulting her at a house party in the summer of 1982, when he was a student at the school. Kavanaugh has vigorously denied her claims.

America in July had endorsed Kavanaugh on the grounds that he might have provided the Supreme Court with the vote needed to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The Catholic Church firmly opposes abortion.

“Anyone who recognizes the humanity of the unborn should support the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh,” the editors entitled their July 9 editorial, before Ford’s accusation was made public.

In their new editorial, America’s editors said they were still committed to finding a justice with Kavanaugh’s textualist approach to jurisprudence that is suspicious of the kind of judicial innovation that led to the Roe decision. But they said Kavanaugh was not the only candidate available.

“For the good of the country and the future credibility of the Supreme Court in a world that is finally learning to take reports of harassment, assault and abuse seriously, it is time to find a nominee whose confirmation will not repudiate that lesson,” the editors wrote.

The magazine is not the only Jesuit institution to respond to the nomination.

The president of Georgetown Prep, the Rev. James R. Van Dyke, has said the controversy over Ford’s accusations has compelled the school to “evaluate our school culture” and redouble efforts to help students develop a healthy understanding of masculinity.

“And it is a time to talk with them honestly and even bluntly about what respect for others, especially respect for women and other marginalized people means in very practical terms_in actions and in words,” Van Dyke wrote to the school community Sept. 20.

Opinion: A Supreme Court Open to the People, Not Just Elites

By Elizabeth Wydra

The first Monday of every October features a majestic ritual in our nation’s capital. Nine of the most powerful lawyers in America ascend the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court, led by the Chief Justice of the United States, where they hear the first oral arguments of the new term.

As a member of the Supreme Court Bar, I get goosebumps every time I can sit in that courtroom of marble and red velvet, and listen to learned advocates grapple with the justices over issues large and small. Watching those arguments is a privilege that I never take for granted. Make no mistake, however, it is a privilege, because the Supreme Court provides no live video or audio feed of its proceedings for the benefit of the general public who cannot be in the court.

Let me explain. The Supreme Court divides those who want to see an oral argument into two groups: Those who are members of the Supreme Court Bar, and everybody else. In this way, while the glorious motto engraved on the architrave above the court’s front entrance reads, “Equal Justice Under Law,” there is not Equal Access By All to witness the court’s proceedings.

Members of the Supreme Court Bar are lawyers who meet a handful of requirements and pay a fee. When we want to watch a Supreme Court oral argument, we get into the court building by a side entrance, and are given a number according to our place in line. If the case isn’t a high-profile one, Bar members usually get a seat inside the court without too much trouble. If there is substantial interest in a case, however, there may not be enough space inside the courtroom to accommodate all Bar members. In that event, we can listen to the oral argument piped in over speakers in an overflow room called the “lawyers’ lounge,” like listening to the radio.

Court proceedings begin at 10 a.m., and for most cases Bar members can arrive as late as 9:30 to at least get into the lawyers’ lounge. While it may have happened in the past, I am not aware of a single time in recent decades that the court could not accommodate all members of the Supreme Court Bar who wanted to watch or listen to an argument, either in the courtroom or the lawyers’ lounge — and that includes blockbuster arguments over marriage equality and the Affordable Care Act.

The public, however, gets no such special treatment.

Non-Bar members have to wait in a separate, “public line” on the sidewalk out in front of the court. When should one be in the public line to get a seat in the court? The safest advice is to get there early. For the court’s historic oral argument in the marriage equality case in 2013, the public lined up before 5 p.m. the day before. The same was true for the oral argument in the D.C. gun case back in 2008. There are several other similar examples.

How many people in the public line will get a seat to watch a given argument? Unfortunately, it varies, but probably in the neighborhood of 60 people in the public line will be permitted to watch a full argument — sometimes more are allowed in, other times fewer — out of potentially hundreds waiting. People have waited for hours, often in the cold and rain, only to be denied a seat in the court. Instead, they are gathered in groups, and permitted to watch proceedings at the back of the court, standing for about three minutes, until they are shuttled out and a new group from the public line is allowed in for another three minutes.

Is this really the best the court can do in 2018?

Television has been around for more than 90 years. Radio for more than 100. Why is it only members of the Supreme Court Bar get to watch or listen to an oral argument live, but not the whole American people? Clearly there is no technical reason, neither is there a legal one. If the justices are camera-shy or afraid of oral arguments turning into visual spectacle — objections that, at best, are outweighed by equal access by the people to their government — surely they can at least allow proceedings to be broadcast over the radio, a technology older than the Supreme Court building itself.

Government of, by, and for the people requires nothing less.


Elizabeth Wydra is president of Constitutional Accountability Center, a public interest law firm and think tank dedicated to promoting the promise of the Constitution’s text and history. She wrote this for

Opinion: Let Americans Watch Their Supreme Court in Action

By Bob Carlson

On Monday, the Supreme Court will start a new term, with a docket packed with cases that could affect our personal lives, the environment and American democracy itself. But despite its predominant role, the court is the one branch of our federal government that does not allow itself to be video recorded.

Public interest in the federal government has never been higher, yet opportunities to watch the Supreme Court at work are almost nonexistent. You can personally attend its proceedings, but that requires a trip to Washington, and the visitor’s gallery seats only 250 people. You can listen to audio recordings of oral arguments, but they are released only once a week, on Fridays. Written transcripts are released every day, but that’s a poor substitute for watching the proceedings with your own eyes.

Our democracy, based on the rule of law, depends on public understanding and trust of our institutions, including the courts. It is therefore unfortunate that most Americans can only follow the work of the supreme institution upholding the law indirectly through news reports, transcripts and audio recordings.

What’s more, there is a qualitative difference in the understanding you get from listening to a recording of an argument versus watching it. The audio recording doesn’t capture the justices’ non-verbal reactions to lawyers’ arguments, or lawyers’ reactions to the justices’ questions or the justices’ reactions to one another.

There is an understandable concern that cameras would disrupt the collegiality of the court and would change the way participants conduct themselves. Last year, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said she worried that some justices would play to the cameras. But this assumes that Supreme Court justices cannot rise above the petty politics that plague other institutions.

In 2005, Justice Antonin Scalia said he distrusted the media to use video of the court correctly. Most Americans, he said, “will see 15-second takeouts on the network news, which, I guarantee you, will be uncharacteristic of what the court does.” That, he concluded, would “misinform the public.”

This assumes that the media are not ethical enough to accurately condense the court’s proceedings, and that citizens are not smart enough to comprehend them without watching gavel-to-gavel coverage. That shortchanges the integrity of the media and the intelligence of voters.

Most state courts have allowed cameras for decades, but most federal courts ban them. One exception is the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which has provided video of its oral arguments since 2010. It is very popular. The court has more than 5,800 archived videos, which have been viewed more than 1.3 million times. Some law schools stream the court’s arguments for instructional purposes.

At an American Bar Association panel discussion last year, 9th Circuit Judge Johnnie Rawlinson said she initially opposed cameras, but once they were installed at her court, they were very successful. “By and large, I think it’s been a positive for our court to have the openness that we have with the cameras,” she said. “And I’m hopeful the experiment will become the norm throughout the country, including the Supreme Court.

The ABA agrees. We believe that providing access to video recordings of the court’s arguments would help citizens better understand the law and how the Supreme Court operates. It would enhance respect for the judiciary and the rule of law at a time when both are subject to frequent attacks.

The ABA summarized its support for cameras in a 2014 letter to Congress. It said, in part, “The ABA remains committed to the belief that all federal courts, including the Supreme Court, should experiment with and expand electronic media coverage of both civil and criminal proceedings. We … believe that courts that conduct their business under public scrutiny protect the integrity of the federal judicial system by advancing accountability and providing an opportunity for the people they serve to learn about the role of the federal courts in civic life.”

That remains true today. It is time for the Supreme Court to let citizens see how the judiciary works — not from fictional courtroom dramas but from the real-life give and take between lawyers and justices.


Bob Carlson is president of the American Bar Association. He wrote this for

The Conversation

10 US military bases are named after Confederate generals

September 27, 2018


Jeff South

Associate Professor of Journalism, Virginia Commonwealth University

Disclosure statement

Jeff South does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

In the debate over Confederate symbols in the U.S., the 10 Army bases named after Confederate generals who fought for the South during the Civil War have largely escaped scrutiny.

As a former newspaper reporter and a current journalism professor, I have wondered why the media have mostly overlooked this story of military installations that still bear the names of those who fought to maintain slavery and white supremacy.

Working for a newspaper in Norfolk, Virginia, 37 years ago, I covered an event where nearly 30,000 Boy Scouts from across the country converged on Fort A.P. Hill, about 80 miles south of Washington, D.C., for a week of fellowship and fun. It was the Boy Scouts’ 1981 Jamboree, and the theme that year was “Scouting’s Reunion with History.”

Looking back, I feel more than a tinge of regret: I missed the real story at the Jamboree. That story was all about history.

Ambrose Powell Hill Jr. was a Confederate general who died during a battle in Petersburg, Virginia, south of Richmond, in 1865. Before the Civil War, he was in the U.S. Army. But as Virginia seceded from the Union, Hill resigned and joined the efforts to defend the Confederate States of America.

I wonder if the Scouts back in ’81 knew that their Jamboree was being held on an Army base named in honor of a man who fought, in effect, to defend slavery.

That is the story I should have written.

All 10 in the South

Virginia has three of the 10 military installations named after Confederates. Louisiana and Georgia each have two. Alabama, North Carolina and Texas each have one.

The bases were named for such figures as Robert E. Lee of Virginia, who commanded the Confederate Army; Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard of Louisiana, whose troops shelled Fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 12, 1861, launching the Civil War; and John Brown Gordon of Georgia, who historians say was a Ku Klux Klan leader after the war.

Four of the bases were established at the start of World War I, and the others at the start of World War II – times when the Army was in recruitment mode and appealing to young white men in the South. This was an era when Southern states promoted the “Lost Cause” ideology: that the Confederacy’s rebellion was an honorable struggle for the Southern way of life and that the “War of Northern Aggression” was over states’ rights, not slavery. From their perspective at the time, memorializing Confederate generals seemed reasonable.

Army officials have said they named the bases in the spirit of reconciliation, not division. They viewed the Confederate generals as tragic heroes, not treasonable racists.

Changing perspectives

The Lost Cause ideology, which portrays slaves as happy and their owners as benevolent, has been thoroughly discredited. In recent years, communities across the U.S. have questioned, if not dismantled, statues and other symbols memorializing the Confederacy.

While such efforts have focused on local landmarks, I believe an even stronger case could be made for renaming national symbols that evoke the Confederacy. Soldiers of various races and ethnicities are stationed at the Army bases. For decades, defense officials have spoken forcefully against racial intolerance.

Some members of Congress want to rename the military facilities. Legislation filed in August 2017 by U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., would require the Defense Department to rename any military property “that is currently named after any individual who took up arms against the United States during the American Civil War.”

Clarke’s proposal has languished for a year in a congressional subcommittee.

If my journalism students could travel back in time to the 1981 National Scout Jamboree, I hope they would follow the Boy Scouts’ motto to “be prepared.” I want them to be ready to ask questions about how a U.S. Army base came to be named for someone who fought against the Army – and whether it’s right to honor defenders of a society that enslaved people.


Terrence Treft

thanks for the article.

how many towns/cities, schools, parks, streets, buildings, ships, etc… are named after presidents, politicians and historical figures who owned slaves and profited by the institution of slavery? shall all this be changed? shall every statue come down, every name expunged, every venue re-christened?

stephan Edwards

Apparently it is now fashionable to judge 19th century men by 21st century standards. Does this mean we should rename everything named after George Washington or Thomas Jefferson both of whom owned slaves and profited from them?? I got it we can rename the Washington Monument to the Jimi Hendrix monument and recarve the faces in Mount Rushmore to Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

White House postpones meeting between Trump, Rosenstein


Associated Press

Thursday, September 27

WASHINGTON (AP) — A highly anticipated meeting between President Donald Trump and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was postponed until next week to avoid conflicting with a dramatic Senate hearing involving Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the White House said Thursday.

The two were set to meet Thursday following news media reports that Rosenstein last year discussed possibly secretly recording the president and using the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove him from office.

But White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the men agreed to reschedule their meeting because “they do not want to do anything to interfere with the hearing.”

Amid speculation that the meeting could result in Rosenstein’s dismissal or resignation, Trump said Wednesday that he would “certainly prefer not” to fire Rosenstein and that the Justice Department’s No. 2 official had denied making the remarks first attributed to him in a New York Times report.

“I would much prefer keeping Rod Rosenstein,” Trump said at a news conference in New York. “He said he did not say it. He said he does not believe that. He said he has a lot of respect for me, and he was very nice and we’ll see.”

Trump added, “My preference would be to keep him and to let him finish up.”

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway would not say Thursday when the meeting would take place, but stressed that the two will talk and Trump has made clear “he would prefer that the deputy attorney general stay on the job and complete the job.”

Rosenstein is overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and his dismissal would put that probe in jeopardy and create a political storm.

The meeting delay prolongs the uncertainty of Rosenstein’s status. Rosenstein headed to the White House on Monday morning preparing to be fired and had discussed a possible resignation over the weekend with White House officials. But after meeting with chief of staff John Kelly and speaking by phone with Trump, he got a reprieve with the Trump meeting scheduled for Thursday.

Since then, the White House has sought to tamp down anxiety that Rosenstein would be fired.

White House officials called senators Monday to say Trump had said he wouldn’t be firing Rosenstein at the meeting, according to two people familiar with the conversations who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private discussions. Aides have advised Trump against taking any extreme actions ahead of the midterm elections with his party’s majorities in Congress already under threat.

Friends and former colleagues of Rosenstein say they don’t expect him to step aside and give up oversight of the Russia investigation and the enormous swath of Justice Department operations for which he is responsible.

Rosenstein, who has spent his entire career in government, “has tremendous loyalty to the department,” said former Justice Department lawyer and longtime friend James Trusty.

“He’s a very long-run, historical-minded guy in a lot of ways,” Trusty said. “I think he may have some confidence that history will be kinder to him than politicians are.”

Trump’s remarks Wednesday followed a chaotic period that began last Friday with reports that Rosenstein had last year discussed possibly secretly recording the president and invoking the Constitution to remove Trump from office. The Justice Department issued statements aimed at denying the reports, including one that said the wiretap remark was meant sarcastically.

Rosenstein appointed Mueller in May 2017, oversees his work and has repeatedly defended the breadth and scope of the probe. Trump has been critical of Rosenstein’s oversight of the probe, but the two have at times displayed a warm working relationship, and Rosenstein has been spared some of the more personal and antagonistic broadsides leveled against Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Though Rosenstein appears poised to survive the week, it’s not clear how much longer he’ll be around. Trump has signaled that he may fire Sessions after the November midterms, and Rosenstein could go with him.

But it could be sooner: Some officials around Trump believe Rosenstein’s reported musings about invoking the 25th Amendment could make it defensible for Trump to part with him, even in the final sprint to Election Day.

Rosenstein’s friends and former colleagues describe him as exceptionally committed to the Justice Department — one said he “bleeds” for the agency — and unlikely to leave on his own, though they say he respects the chain of command enough to resign if asked.

Associated Press writers Chad Day, Ken Thomas and Michael Balsamo in Washington and Zeke Miller in New York contributed to this report.

The Conversation

How Australia can help the US make democracy harder to hack

September 27, 2018


Scott Shackelford

Associate Professor of Business Law and Ethics; Director, Ostrom Workshop Program on Cybersecurity and Internet Governance; Cybersecurity Program Chair, IU-Bloomington, Indiana University

Matthew Sussex

Academic Director, National Security College, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

Disclosure statement

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


Indiana University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

In the drumbeat of reports about Russian attempts to undermine U.S. democratic institutions with trolls, Twitter bots and cyberattacks on congressional candidates, it is easy to forget that the problem of election security is not isolated to the United States, and extends far beyond safeguarding insecure voting machines.

Consider Australia, which has been grappling with repeated Chinese attempts to interfere with its political system. One 2018 report, for example, found that the Chinese have infiltrated “every layer of Australian Government, right down to local councils.” That’s why a group of academics and policymakers from Indiana University and the Australian National University recently met to discuss how we might make democracy harder to hack. We found that we had far more to work on together than we had anticipated.

Protecting a diverse, widespread system

In the wake of the 2016 U.S. elections, scholars, government officials and concerned citizens are debating how to mitigate the risk of foreign groups targeting the election machinery upon which democratic societies are built.

Vulnerabilities are widespread across the thousands of largely locally managed systems that together comprise U.S. election infrastructure. These vulnerabilities include voting machines that in some cases still have no paper trails and are often running “severely outdated operating systems like Windows XP,” which has not been patched since 2014.

But that is just a taste of the parade of horribles against which people must inoculate the election system. Other risks include hacked tabulation systems, which was a major concern in the 2017 Dutch elections, as well as compromised media outlets, as in Ukraine.

What’s been done so far?

Since 2016, the U.S. government has made progress in protecting democratic institutions. In January 2017, for example, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reclassified elections as critical infrastructure, which has helped to focus attention on the issue. Congress has also appropriated US$380 million to help speed the purchase of new, more secure voting machines.

In addition, local and state election officials have a new way to get up-to-date cyber threat information from the federal government. But further progress has stalled, including the Secure Elections Act, which would, among other things, ensure that every vote cast in the U.S. is on a verifiable paper ballot.

What more should Americans be doing, and what can Australia teach us?

Protecting democracy down under

Threats to Australia’s democracy differ in several key respects from those facing the U.S. To begin with, voting is mandatory in Australia, so there aren’t thorny political battles over who is allowed to vote. The major parties also agree on electoral boundaries so as to prevent gerrymandering.

Voting itself is different, too. When Australian voters enter a booth, they use paper forms, which are tallied by hand. And the election process is overseen by a central federally mandated body, the Australian Electoral Commission. This contrasts significantly to the U.S., where voting processes and infrastructure are heavily privatized, using antiquated technologies, though various constituencies have experimented with different forms of electronic voting.

With centralized operations, the Australian government has more control over the voting process and less need to worry about local variations that might threaten its integrity. At the same, such centralization makes for a tempting target.

Lessons from afar

Both countries do have reasons to worry, though. Their shared concerns include manipulation of public opinion via social media; alleged foreign influence over politicians; diminished public confidence around trust, privacy and data; and overseas ownership of news outlets. Fixing these depends much more on addressing human shortcomings than vulnerabilities in digital systems or formal institutions.

Australia also recognizes that political parties are potential targets – as the U.S. found out when the Democratic National Committee’s emails were hacked in 2016 – as well as the lesser-known hack of Republican National Committee emails.

Australia is also working to reduce foreign influence in other aspects of its political and business activities. Like the U.S., Australia has passed tough new foreign agent registration laws with bipartisan support. It has also blocked attempts by Chinese firms to buy controlling stakes in resource companies or large amounts of agricultural and urban land. And it recently excluded the Chinese tech giant Huawei from bidding to provide an Australian 5G mobile data network, citing a potential threat to national security.

And Australia has decided to invest early to guard against future information warfare, such as micro-targeting audiences with tailor-made messaging and machine learning-enhanced deepfake videos. The country has assigned top government officials to focus on cyber threats and begun an effort to ask all citizens to improve their cybersecurity.

Protecting political parties and citizens?

The U.S. has not yet followed Australia’s lead in providing government cyberdefense for political parties. Other aspects of civil society are also left undefended. Hackers have stolen public servants’ data, making them vulnerable to blackmail or fraud. Think tanks and research centers, as well as businesses, have data and other documents that are tempting targets.

The U.S. could do more, perhaps even designating citizens themselves as critical to society and in need of government support and protection against hacking and other online threats. That would acknowledge the many efforts underway to influence voters with false and misleading information.

By taking a lead from Australia – and by learning from successes and failures there, and in other countries – the U.S. could find ways to protect democracy at home and abroad.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Tom Williams/Pool Image via AP) Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Tom Williams/Pool Image via AP)

Staff & Wire Reports