Elie Mystal, The Nation - The Trump Effect on the Federal Courts

Elie Mystal, The Nation
The Trump Effect on the Federal Courts

You can see it around the world: repugnance, that wrinkling of the nose, curling of the lip, “what’s that smell.?”  The stink of Trump is on America and the whole world knows.  

Every day, on screens around the world, some fresh offense against law or humanity sears the world with the unmistakable Trump brand.  

These are marks meant to last; long after the Donald has left the room, the reputation of America will bear his fragrance.

Our former eminence was built on American prosperity and power, no doubt, but what drew the entrepreneurs and leaders to come here were ideals – ideals made real in America.  People perceived you could be free here, and happy, because ours was a society built on civility, law and justice.  

Now, the USA is defined by a President who not only disrespects civility, law and justice, but defies them all.  

The broken rules of international diplomacy and domestic political rhetoric and behavior, the discarded motto of America as a union of plural points of view, the abandonment of protections for workers from abuse and nature from destruction will be a long time making right again.

But voters can kickstart the process of reform, and a new executive and legislature can rewind the various social and political clocks Trump stopped or made run backwards.  Trade wars can be called off; nuclear agreements can be reinstated; politicians can be rewarded for honesty and public-spirited pragmatism and rules for workplace justice and safety and environmental sanity can all be put back in place.

But this process is likely to be slowed, even endangered by the branch of government voters cannot reach: the judiciary.  The place the Trump legacy, malign to its core, will live the longest will be in America’s courts. 

Long after the political tide has been turned by a voting public increasingly diverse and increasingly female, Trump-anointed judges will reflect the bad old days, and the prejudices of the bad old man who hired them. 

Here are the two “least worst” things you can say about Trump’s judges:  87% of them are White, and 78% are men. 

The racist, gay-bashing, Muslim-hating, union-busting, corporatist, authoritarian attitudes so many Trump judicial picks are proud to display are even more discouraging.  

But here’s by far the worst thing about them.  They’re going to be with us for a generation or more.



Elie Mystal is a contributing writer to The Nation, executive editor of Above the Law and legal editor of WNYC’s More Perfect. His new report, “The Trump Court,” appears on the cover of the July 29/August 5 edition of The Nation magazine.  

Mystal joined Above the Law in 2008 by winning the ATL Idol Contest. Prior to joining ATL, Elie wrote about politics and popular culture at City Hall News and the New York Press. Elie received a degree in Government from Harvard University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He was formerly a litigator at Debevoise & Plimpton but quit the legal profession to pursue a career as an online provocateur. He’s written editorials for the New York Daily News and the New York Times, and he has appeared on both MSNBC and Fox News without having to lie about his politics to either news organization.








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