NEW YORK, N.Y.—With a Senate vote on confirming federal appeals-court judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court looming within as little as 24 hours, about 150 lawyers and legal staff held a last-minute protest in Foley Square during the courts’ lunch-hour recess Oct. 4.
Kavanaugh on the Court, Legal Services Staff Association President Sonja Shield told LaborPress, would be “devastating” for the low-income New Yorkers her members represent in criminal and civil cases. On issues ranging from labor to abortion rights, she says, “he’s consistently ruled against the underdog.”
The rally was one of five lunch-hour demonstrations organized by three legal unions: the LSSA, an affiliate of United Auto Workers Local 2320, which represents both lawyers and support staff at Legal Services NYC and Mobilization for Justice; the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, UAW Local 2325; and 1199SEIU, which represents Legal Aid Society staff such as paralegals and process servers. The others took place outside Housing Court in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, and at Criminal Court in Staten Island.
“We cannot stand idly by,” Legal Services attorney Brian Sullivan told the mostly female crowd in Foley Square. “This would negatively affect the rights of our clients for decades to come. No to misogynist violence.”
The intense opposition to Kavanaugh came from three places: The belief that he would cement a majority of far-right ideologues on the Supreme Court; the outrage after Christine Blasey Ford and other women accused him of sexually assaulting and harassing them; and the feeling that the Trump administration and Senate Republicans are rushing to get him on the court without adequate debate because of the risk that the Democrats might win a Senate majority in November.
Along with [Justice Neil] Gorsuch,[Brett Kavanaugh] is the ideal of a Koch brothers judge. He’ll be anti-labor and anti-worker. — Legal Aid lawyer Thomas Curtis.
“It’s horrifying to see how intent the far right is on ramming him through with no regard for truth or process,” Shield says. “The White House obstructed any meaningful inquiry.” The FBI probe into Ford’s allegations is a “sham,” she charges: It hasn’t interviewed either Ford or Kavanaugh, the two principal figures involved.
“Along with [Justice Neil] Gorsuch, he’s the ideal of a Koch brothers judge,” says Legal Aid lawyer Thomas Curtis. “He’ll be anti-labor and anti-worker.”
“Even before Dr. Ford came forward, it was clear that Kavanaugh was an ideologue perfectly tailored to carry out President Donald Trump’s agenda,” Shield said in a statement released by organizers. Association of Legal Aid Attorneys President Deborah Wright said the group stands against both “Judge Kavanaugh’s heinous acts and also against his jurisprudence, which demonstrates a consistent disregard for the rights and humanity of women, workers, people of color, and the environment.”
On labor issues, Shield says Kavanaugh’s record shows that “he sides with employers over employees.” She cites his 2008 dissent in Agri Processor Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, in which Kavanaugh argued that a Brooklyn kosher-meat wholesaler had the right to refuse to bargain with the United Food and Commercial Workers because the union election had been “tainted” by undocumented immigrants voting—and because they couldn’t legally work there, they couldn’t be considered legitimate employees (The Supreme Court had ruled in 1984 that undocumented-immigrant employees could vote in union elections).
The sexual-assault accusations, however, were the largest source of outrage, with protesters carrying signs such as “We Believe Women” and chanting, “Believe the survivor, not the sniveling liar.” Legal Aid lawyer Marianne Allegro says she found Ford’s testimony about the alleged attack before the Senate Judiciary Committee “very credible,” while Kavanaugh’s “was horrific.” Sullivan says the judge’s angry behavior reminded him of “a petulant, entitled child.”
“We’ve got to stop this insane process any way we can,” says Allegro. “We can stop the confirmation of this depraved man who is so unfit.”