Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) continued his exposure of the shadowy network of right-wing billionaires who are rigging the judicial system in their own favor.
The Rhode Island Democrat laid out evidence of how that network identifies and promotes friendly judges during Tuesday’s confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, and on Wednesday he explained, using the 2017 Janus decision as an example, how they rig the legal process itself.
“It wasn’t the injured person that went and hired a lawyer,” Whitehouse said. “It was the legal group that went and found a plaintiff, and then they went to court, which everybody does, but it got interesting there because there the lawyers asked to lose. I don’t know if you’ve ever been with a case in which the lawyers have asked to lose before, I never have been. I’ve never litigated against anybody who asked to lose. Have you ever been in a case in which a party asked to lose?”
Barrett agreed that she had not, either, and Whitehouse continued to explain how the well-funded conservative legal network punted on that case after Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016 in hopes of undoing rules requiring union dues from non-members.
“So these groups with all the money behind them from Donors Trust and the Bradley Foundation and all come into court, and they say, ‘Please dismiss my case in the district court,'” Whitehouse said, “then they go up to the Ninth Circuit, and they specifically ask the Ninth Circuit to get rid of their case, to uphold the decision dismissing their case, quote, ‘as quickly as practical, practicable and without argument.’ Have you ever seen a case in your circuit where somebody said, ‘I’d like to lose, and I’d like to lose as quickly as practicable and lose without making an argument on behalf of my client?'”
Again, Barrett agreed she hadn’t seen that, and Whitehouse explained how the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and other corporate groups felt confident they’d eventually win — with the right court.
“One of the things that has been a constant for me has been the belief that, even if I was kind of taking a long-shot case, I’d get a fair hearing, get a fair decision and I had a shot,” Whitehouse said. “I’ve got a feeling that the lawyers going into the United States Supreme Court in that Janus case, looking at this array of commonly funded anti-union front groups assembled against them as [friends of the court], having seen what Friedrichs portended, having been signaled by [Justice Samuel] Alito in those earlier cases that they wanted to get rid of Abood, they were on the hunt for Abood. That’s a feeling that no lawyer should have in America.”
“All I want to do is leave with you the thought that when you’re on the court, I hope you will conduct yourself and see in whatever way you can that the court conducts itself in such a way that no lawyer goes into an argument in the United States Supreme Court feeling that the case is set against them, and there’s nothing to be done other than to go in and take your medicine.”
Whitehouse explained how the same network of right-wing billionaires secretly funded a variety of legal organizations that filed legal briefs in hopes of reaching courts packed with hand-selected judges and justices — and he asked Barrett to consider why she’d been selected.
“It’s something that the public and the parties and the court ought to know,” Whitehouse said. “If what you have is amicus groups coming in flying false flags, not revealing whose interest they’re really there to support, and potentially teeing up arguments and ideas that will benefit the secret funders, that will maybe tee up for a case they know is coming but isn’t this case, but if they can tilt the law a little bit, it can have an effect later on.”
“I urge you to consider that,” Whitehouse added. “I’m 13 seconds out, I’ll leave it with that. Please think about these things. There’s something that is not right about the way this is happening, and I urge you, and I urge anybody from the court who is listening, to try to sincerely clean this mess up because it is not good for the court.”