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The Good Ol’ Boys: 2 Years In, Trump Is Making Our Courts A Lot Less Diverse

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WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump has done something remarkable to the nation’s federal courts: he’s filled up their empty seats with clones of Vice President Mike Pence.

Whether it’s for district courts or higher-ranking appeals courts, Trump’s confirmed lifetime judges are overwhelmingly white men with records of opposing abortion, LGBTQ rights and voting rights.

A whopping 90% of the Trump picks confirmed for appeals courts in his first two years in office were white, according to a Congressional Research Service analysis. 10% were Asian American. He didn’t confirm any African American or Hispanic circuit judges.

In that same period, 92% of his confirmed district court judges were white. 4% were Asian American, 2% were African American and 2% were Hispanic.

CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
As for the gender breakdown, 80% of Trump’s confirmed appeals court judges and 74% of those approved for the district courts were male.

CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
For some context, 65% of President Barack Obama’s confirmed appeals court judges were white, as were 63% of those he placed on district courts. In terms of gender, 56% of Obama’s confirmed appeals court judges and 59% of his confirmed district court judges were male, per the CRS analysis.

What does it all mean? It means that Trump is making the federal courts a lot less diverse than they were after Obama left office. And less diversity means fewer of the people making decisions on the nation’s most powerful courts reflect the demographics of the populations they serve, which limits perspectives on critical issues like abortion rights, criminal justice and employment discrimination.

“Trump has compiled a poor record of nominating and confirming accomplished, conservative but centrist, ethnic minority, female and LGBTQ candidates,” Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor and expert on judicial nominations, said in an email. “The appointment of diverse candidates would enhance the justice that courts deliver and parties merit.”

Some glaring holes in the makeup of Trump’s judges: he didn’t nominate any African American women to be appeals or district judges during his first two years ― though last month he nominated two. He hasn’t nominated any Native American judges. He’s nominated two LGBTQ people for federal court seats, but neither have been confirmed.

More than 80% of Trump’s judges are also members of the Federalist Society, a powerful Washington-based organization of conservative lawyers that has been feeding the White House the names of young, anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, anti-voting rights attorneys to confirm to judgeships.

Some of the group’s confirmed picks have included appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett, 47, who suggested Roe v. Wade was an “erroneous decision” and called the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit “an assault on religious liberty.”

Appeals court judge Eric Murphy, 40, defended Ohio’s notorious voter purge law that will make it disproportionately harder for minority, low-income and disabled voters to vote.

Appeals court judge John Bush, 54, has compared abortion to slavery and referred to them as “the two greatest tragedies in our country.” He has also said he strongly disagrees with same-sex marriage, mocked climate change and proclaimed “the witch is dead” when he thought the Affordable Care Act might not be enacted.

Both of Trump’s Supreme Court appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, are Federalist Society members too (as well as white males).

The White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have been laser-focused on filling appeals court vacancies because these courts often have the last word in federal cases. The Supreme Court only hears about 100 to 150 cases every year, compared to the more than 50,000 cases heard by appeals courts.

To date, Trump has won confirmation of 37 appeals court judges and 58 district court judges. At the appeals court level, that’s more than any president has confirmed in his first two years and means that one in five judges on the nation’s appeals courts was nominated by Trump.

McConnell is now turning his attention to the 125 vacancies on district courts. Republicans blew up the Senate rules last month to make it a lot easier to confirm district court judges, so it’s possible they’ll fill all of those vacancies by the end of Trump’s first term.

It’s too early to draw conclusions about how Trump has changed the federal courts. For one thing, despite the president getting so many appeals court judges confirmed, his picks are mostly replacing other judges appointed by Republican presidents, meaning the White House might not be able to tilt the partisan balance on those courts as much as it wants unless Trump wins a second term.

Russell Wheeler, a fellow in the Brookings Institution’s governance studies program, said the balance among appeals court judges appointed by Democratic or Republican presidents is beginning to shift toward the GOP in a few circuits. “Whether that pace will stay steady is hard to say,” he said.

But even where Trump has filled a court seat previously occupied by a Republican-appointed judge, there are significant differences. Trump’s judicial nominees are generally younger and have a clearer right-wing ideological bent than the people they’re replacing.

As Wheeler put it in February, “When Trump replaces a 72-year-old slightly right-of-center judge with a 45-year-old conservative firebrand, it’s not really apples for apples.”

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Asian Voices

NFL Champion Sends Message To Fellow Asian American Football Star Taylor Rapp

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Asian American NFL prospect Taylor Rapp received a message from two-time Super Bowl champion Hines Ward, who’s also of Asian descent. 

Ward, who dealt with his share of racism during his time in the NFL, had some uplifting words for Rapp, who’s awaiting Thursday’s draft, captured in a promo video. 

“I know you’ve heard it before: ’Asians can’t play football,’” Ward says in the video. “I still remember the first time I heard it. But I learned something too. those words can be a gift. You can feed off that energy. Turn that hate into wins.”

He concludes: “So Asians can’t play football, huh? I’d say we’re pretty darn good.”
Asians make up less than 2 percent of the players in the NFL. While Ward was an extremely successful player in the league, becoming Super Bowl MVP back in 2003, he found himself the target of bigotry throughout his career. Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Ward spoke out against the deluge of racist remarks and jokes made toward Japan and reflected on his own experiences as an Asian.

“I’ve been dealing with this my whole life. I still remember being called the Jackie Chan of football,” he told ESPN.

Regardless, Ward has emerged a champion for Asian Americans. In 2010, the former NFL player was sworn into the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a group appointed by the president to help improve and increase access to opportunities for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. 

Rapp himself has been transparent about the struggles he’s faced as an Asian American football player with NFL ambitions. He revealed to NFL.com that growing up as one of the rare Asian faces on the field, he was often taunted. He subsequently wrestled with his own identity. 

“They make fun of how you look ― your eyes, the widened, slanted eyes. There were a few instances where I was called the Ch-word. It was offensive to me. It made me embarrassed of who I was,” he said. “That’s why I never embraced it growing up. I was different than everyone else, and I didn’t want to be.” 

Since then, Rapp has grown to be proud of his heritage, displaying several conspicuous Chinese tattoos. And with guidance from fellow players who could relate to Rapp’s struggle, as well as the encouragement of Asians on social media who look up to the player, Rapp is now looking to be a role model for others. 

“To me, it’s about gaining a platform that will help inspire a generation of Chinese and Asian American kids,” he told NFL.com. “I don’t want to be just an answer to a trivia question; I want to inspire and have a real impact.”

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COMMUNITIES

Leader Of Anti-Immigrant Militia Group Attacked In Jail, Lawyer Says

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SUNLAND PARK, N.M., April 24 (Reuters) ― The leader of an armed group that spent the past two months detaining migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, drawing condemnation from civil liberties advocates, has been hospitalized after he was attacked in jail, his attorney said.

Larry Hopkins, 69, was in a hospital with broken ribs after being attacked on Tuesday at the Dona Ana County Detention Center in Las Cruces in southern New Mexico, attorney Kelly O’Connell said.

A spokeswoman for the Dona Ana County center did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The attack occurred the same day Hopkins’ United Constitutional Patriots (UCP) group abandoned its border camp near Sunland Park, New Mexico, where they had spent two months detaining thousands of illegal migrants.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last week accused Hopkins’ group of being a fascist, white nationalist militia illegally detaining and kidnapping Central American families seeking asylum.

O’Connell said he had spoken with Hopkins by phone.

“This guy is very high-profile. So, if he gets put into jail and is immediately attacked after his first hearing just a few days after being put in there, can Dona Ana County correctional protect high-profile defendants?” O’Connell asked.

O’Connell said he did not know why Hopkins had been targeted. But a spokesman for his UCP paramilitary group said he believed it was because of his activity at the border.

“They put him in a pod cell with a group of people and they had just got done watching the article about the ACLU writing about him being racist, and as a result of that he was attacked,” UCP spokesman Jim Benvie said in a video posted online.

New Mexico’s Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday said the UCP’s activities had to stop, and the FBI arrested Hopkins the next day on gun charges based on a 2017 search of his home.

Benvie said the UCP was moving to another campsite in a couple of days and would continue to support the U.S. Border Patrol as it faced an “invasion” of migrants, most of whom it said are fraudulently seeking asylum.

“We do have a private property location on the border that we have secured,” said Benvie. “We will not be going anywhere, we will be on an area where we can continue to do what we’ve done.”

The Border Patrol has said it does not support private citizens acting as law enforcement.

(Additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Scott Malone, Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)

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COMMUNITIES

Labour reveals plan to put £1.3bn a year back into local bus services

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Labour would spend £1.3bn a year to reverse recent cuts to local bus services as a means of boosting communities and helping the environment, the party has announced.

The scheme, which Labour said would improve services on 3,000 bus routes around the country, would be funded using revenue raised from vehicle excise duty (VED).

Jeremy Corbyn has raised the issue of poor local bus services at prime minister’s questions, arguing that cuts since 2010 have left many older and vulnerable people isolated, especially in poorer areas, and that such policies lead to greater car use.

The party has already pledged to regulate bus services by putting local services into public ownership and offering free bus travel to under-25s.

The policy was due to be formally announced by the Labour leader and the shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, on Thursday in Nottingham, where the Labour council runs the bus fleet.

Under a plan drawn up under the David Cameron government, from the 2020-21 financial year VED revenue will be hypothecated, meaning it is pre-allocated for certain spending rather than, as is true for most tax, added to the general pot.

The Conservative plan was to spend the hypothecated money on road building, but Labour says it would instead set up a sustainable transport fund, part of which would fund bus services.

The £1.3bn sum a year would reverse what Labour says has been a £645m annual real-terms cut to bus funding since 2010, and invest the same amount on top. Citing government figures, Labour said bus coverage in Britain was at a 30-year low, while outside London the number of passenger journeys had fallen by 10% since 2010.

Corbyn said: “Bus services have been devastated by nine years of austerity. Thousands of routes have been axed, fares have soared and passenger numbers are in freefall. Local services are a lifeline for many, particularly the elderly and those in rural areas. Cuts have had disastrous consequences for our towns and city centres and for air pollution and the environment.

“Bus networks are essential for towns and cities and for tackling rural poverty and isolation, which is why Labour is committed to creating thriving bus networks under public ownership.”

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The Conservative MP Marcus Jones, the party’s vice-chair for local government, said Labour’s plans for the VED money would mean “they would have to clobber motorists with tax hikes and slash funding for road repairs to pay for it”.

He said: “Along with their plans to put politicians in Westminster in charge of running local bus services, their pledge to slash funding for roads and their calls to increase fuel duty, this just proves they are not on the side of hardworking families who rely on their vehicles.”

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