WPRI: Local leaders react to Kavanaugh nomination

WPRI: Local leaders react to Kavanaugh nomination

By: Caroline Goggin

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Standing next to his wife and daughters, conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump Monday night. This was the president’s second Supreme Court pick since taking office.

“My judicial philosophy is straightforward,” Kavanaugh said. “A judge must be independent, and must interpret law as written. A judge must interpret the constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.”

Kavanaugh, 53, was born in Washington, D.C. and currently sits on the D.C. circuit. He is a graduate of Yale Law School, and later gained national attention from his time working for former independent counsel Ken Starr during the investigation of then-president Bill Clinton.

Roger Williams University law professor Peter Margulies described Kavanaugh as “exceptionally bright.”

“Great track record on the D.C. circuit, and great credentials,” Marguiles said. “So in that sense, President Trump couldn’t have picked a better person. But in terms of his general perspective, he is highly conservative. So, conservatives will be happy about that.”

Margulies said if Kavanaugh is confirmed, he believes that could eventually lead to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

“It certainly will be at risk,” he explained. “I think the court’s approach will be to first uphold state laws that in some ways limit access to abortion. But over time, I think there will be states that will be encouraged by the selection of Judge Kavanaugh, that will have laws in place that categorically and absolutely prohibit abortion.”

Kavanaugh will need 51 votes to be confirmed in the Senate, and Margulies said he does not believe attaining confirmation will be difficult.

In a statement to Eyewitness News, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse criticized Trump’s nomination.

“Special interests approved this nominee,” he said. “The confirmation process will be powered by massive, secretive spending by their phony front groups. That’s why Brett Kavanaugh must convince me he can actually be independent. I, along with the American people, will not tolerate a rigged system anymore.”

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed claimed Kavanaugh, if confirmed, would “pose a serious threat to Americans’ access to health care and their civil liberties.”

“I opposed Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to a lower court seat because of his overtly partisan background,” he said. “I did not believe he was a good fit to serve on the DC Circuit then, and I do not think he is a good fit for the Supreme Court now.”

“President Trump had an opportunity to put forth a mainstream nominee who could bring the country together,” Reed continued. “Instead, he once again chose partisanship and the powerful over the interests of hardworking Americans.”

Kavanaugh was tapped to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is retiring. Congressman Jim Langevin expressed concern that his independent voice will be missed.

“Throughout his tenure, Justice Kennedy provided a pivotal vote on several important cases, and some of his most memorable decisions empowered the disadvantaged,” he stated. “From privacy rights to affirmative action to marriage equality, he believed in the rights of people to live and love unburdened by the weight of historical oppression. Although I did not agree with all of Justice Kennedy’s opinions, we must consider the significant role he played on the Court and his impact on women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community.”

“While I do not have a role in the confirmation process,” Langevin added, “it is critical that my colleagues in the Senate subject Judge Kavanaugh to a careful vetting process and fully consider the impact of his future decisions on the lives of the American people.”

Providence Journal: Unions, R.I. officials condemn U.S. Supreme Court ruling on union dues

Providence Journal: Unions, R.I. officials condemn U.S. Supreme Court ruling on union dues

By Linda Borg

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The threatening clouds outside mirrored the tense and determined atmosphere at AFL-CIO headquarters Wednesday afternoon, as about a dozen labor unions turned out in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that government workers can’t be forced to pay union fees.

“We have received very quickly, very strong support from our congressional delegation and Governor Raimondo,” George Nee, president of the Rhode Island chapter of the AFL-CIO, said at the news conference. “When you’re in a fight, it’s good to know you have friends.

“We’re going to be fine,” he added. “We will continue to organize, and we have been organizing.”

Reaction to Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision split along ideological lines in Rhode Island, with liberals calling it an attack on organized labor and conservatives hailing it as a victory for free speech.

The court, in a 5-4 vote, ruled that non-union public-sector employees are not required to pay certain union fees, even though they benefit from collective bargaining. The case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, found that requiring non-union workers to pay fees violates their freedom of speech.

Gov. Gina Raimondo wrote that “the labor movement built Rhode Island’s middle class. This decision is part of a larger effort to weaken labor and diminish the middle class. … As long as I am governor, Rhode Island will continue to stand up for the middle class.”

She said her team will review this ruling and, if any changes are required, her administration will make them at the bargaining table.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse called the partisan nature of these decisions “a cancer on the credibility of the court. Celebratory tweets by Republican political leaders embracing members of the court provide a telling symbol of this breakdown.”

R.I. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, who in January filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a Seventh Circuit decision protecting “fair share” provisions in public-sector collective bargaining agreements, likewise expressed his disappointment in Wednesday’s ruling.

“It will curtail the ability for public employees to obtain fair wages and benefits. These workers are our neighbors, our teachers, police officers and firefighters, all of whom work hard each day serving our communities and contributing to our quality of life,” Kilmartin said in a news release.

“They have already had to endure severe cutbacks to pension plans, health coverage and other benefits, while paying more, and today’s decision will further erode their ability to collectively fight for livable wages, retirement security and other important protections.”

No one knows what the impact on unions will be or how fast the effects will be felt. But such a ruling could have a crippling effect on union revenues, according to the Education Writers Association. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, could face a potential loss of 307,000 members over two years, according to analyst Mike Antonucci, a frequent union critic, cited in the EWA article.

“The Janus case is the most recent corporate-funded attack on public employees that seeks to silence the voice of workers,” said Jay Walsh, executive director of the University of Rhode Island Chapter of the American Association of University Professors. “Full-time faculty at URI don’t just bargain about wages and benefits. We also bargain about conditions that improve student experiences like smaller course sizes, school safety, and freedom of inquiry and expression.”

U.S. Rep. James Langevin called the ruling “a blow to working families and to the members of organized labor who are fighting for their right to earn a decent living.”

“I am appalled that the Gorsuch Court is now going after civil servants by overturning four decades of precedent and undermining their rights as employees,” he said. “Governments are not infringing on free speech by allowing workers to demand better wages.”

But the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a conservative research and advocacy group, said the ruling grants workplace freedom to public employees.

“The greatest benefit will be an improvement in public education,” said Mike Stenhouse, the center’s CEO. “Many education reforms that would improve schools in disadvantaged communities are prevented by union collective bargaining agreements. If unions are no longer able to force teachers who disagree with them to fund their bargaining positions, unions will have less power to impose ineffective policies into contracts.”

“We expected this,” said Nee. “I don’t see this as a weakening at all.

“We’ve been growing and in this state we’ve been strong,” he added. “We never made progress by sitting still and accepting the status quo.”