April 30, 2020
United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Graham, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Committee Members:
The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) writes to express its strong opposition to the nomination of Justin Walker to the United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia Circuit. Walker has proven himself to be a political ideologue who is wholly unqualified to serve a lifetime appointment as a federal judge.
Just last year, Walker earned a rating of “Not Qualified” from the nonpartisan American Bar Association (ABA), which objectively evaluates candidates based on competence, among other criteria. In fact, Walker acknowledged in front of this Committee that he has never served as the sole or lead attorney trying a case to verdict or judgment and has only taken one deposition during his entire career. The ABA plainly stated that Walker’s “legal practice to date does not compensate for the short time the nominee has practiced law and/or his lack of substantial courtroom experience.” Walker was confirmed to a district judgeship despite his total lack of qualifications. And, a mere three weeks after being sworn in as a district judge, Walker was nominated to the court often considered to be the second-highest in the country. This is, quite simply, indefensible.
Walker quickly proved that he had indeed brought his partisan ideology with him to the federal bench, despite the duty of a judge to be impartial and fair. In On Fire Christian Center v. Fischer, Walker issued a temporary restraining order against a non-existent law so that he could write a nearly twenty-page opinion that began with “On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter.” In fact, the mayor in question had urged churchgoers to exercise caution in public in light of the pandemic but had not enjoined anyone from holding or attending a service. Regardless, Walker’s unnecessary and excessively long opinion showed, more than anything else, his eagerness to enshrine Christianity as the American religion.
By enshrining — or attempting to enshrine — any one religion, the government unconstitutionally infringes on the free exercise of religion. As advocates inspired by Jewish values and guided by our faith, we understand the sanctity of religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. We know that religious freedom is meant to be a shield, not a sword and that public servants must place the US Constitution above personal religious beliefs in order to preserve religious liberty for all. Walker has fallen short in this regard.
Rushing to elevate Walker in the midst of a global pandemic, despite his striking lack of qualifications and outward partisanship, gives the appearance that the Administration and Senate are willing to reward those who support a particular ideological agenda with a lifetime judgeship. And, this appearance casts an unfortunate — and avoidable — cloud of distrust over the third branch of government. For the sake of the judiciary’s independence, as well as public trust in courts, we strongly urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote against Justin Walker’s confirmation to the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Chief Policy Officer
National Council of Jewish Women