Supreme Court

Judge William Pryor, 'No Friend of Criminal Defendants,' Is Said to Top Trump's SCOTUS Short-List

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Yesterday President-elect Donald Trump said he plans to announce his Supreme Court pick sometime shortly after taking the oath of office. "I'll be making the decision on who we will put up … that will be probably within two weeks of the 20th," Trump said. The president-elect also reiterated his promise to choose his nominee from the "list of 20" prospective candidates that he released during the campaign. "We've met with numerous candidates. They're outstanding in every case," Trump said.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit

One name on that list in particular keeps cropping up: Judge William H. Pryor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Writing today at The Hill, for example, Alexander Bolton reports that "influential conservatives are pressing [Trump] to nominate Bill Pryor, a judge feared and disdained by liberals but loved by conservatives because of his 'titanium spine.'" Many conservatives seem especially enamored by the fact that Pryor once described Roe v. Wade as the "worst abomination in the history of constitutional law."

Pryor is also the subject of a lengthy profile published this week by SCOTUSblog's Kevin Russell and Charles Davis, who examined the judge's rulings in a variety of cases. Of particular note is their conclusion that Pryor "is no friend of criminal defendants. He very consistently sides with the government in criminal cases on issues both big and small."

I reached a similar conclusion when I profiled Pryor back in November, arguing that Pryor "has a troubling record of favoring broad judicial deference towards law enforcement."

Since Pryor is now rumored to be one of the favorites to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, it's worth comparing their respective records on criminal justice. Whereas Pryor has proven himself to be a dependable vote in favor of law enforcement, Scalia frequently ruled against the aggressive tactics employed by police and prosecutors. Indeed, Scalia himself liked to joke that he "ought to be the darling of the criminal defense bar" thanks to his opinions in favor of broad Fourth Amendment protections. "I have defended criminal defendants' rights—because they're there in the original Constitution—to a greater degree than most judges have," Scalia said.

Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said for the pro-government jurisprudence of Judge William Pryor. If Donald Trump does end up nominating Pryor to replace Scalia on SCOTUS, the Senate Judiciary Committee should devote serious attention to this fundamental disagreement between the two conservative judges.

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  1. “Pryor “has a troubling record of favoring broad judicial deference towards law enforcement.””

    Well, citizen, if you have nothing to hide, then what’s the problem? Huh? DO you have something to hide? I bet you do.

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  2. The problem is the November profile of this guy was worthless. It was a few paragraphs of mush about “judicial deference” as if the term has any meaning and then a case where he let some prosecutors off for misconduct. That is not good, for sure, but it says nothing about the issues talked about in this article. Pryor is a Federal Circuit Court judge. He has to have a pretty fair number of opinions dealing with issues that directly affect criminal defendants like search and seizure and evidence and sentencing rules and so fourth. Would it be too much to ask Root to do some research and see what Pryor actually has to say about these issues? Maybe he is horrible. i don’t know. But I still don’t know after reading two articles about the guy written by Root.

    I am sympathetic to the case Root is trying to make here. A lot of self described conservative judges are horrible on criminal law issues. But Root seems too lazy or for whatever reason unable to make a cogent case why Pryor is bad. He has had two cracks at it and still can’t seem to make the case or even understand how such a case should be made.

    1. Did trump list any judges that are favorable to less government, absolute liberty, and pure enforcement of the constitution?

      I have not heard much positive review of his choices, but I have no idea?

      1. I haven’t been paying much attention. My guess is they are all like Pryor and a mixed bag. Pryor is very good on some things, like gun rights and the commerce clause. He seems, though you can’t really tell from Root’s shoddy reporting here, to be bad on the 4th Amendment. I imagine all of Trump’s picks are that way to some degree or another.

      2. Did trump list any judges that are favorable to less government, absolute liberty, and pure enforcement of the constitution?

        There was one, but he had to retract that recommendation when someone informed him that Judge Reinhold doesn’t actually hold a law degree.

        1. +1 Somebody told me Judge Judy is getting rich doing this and I’m like “I’ve never even heard of that guy.”

      3. Root doesn’t want to talk about who is good on the list. I have no idea why. I’ve heard good things about Sykes and Willett.

        Here’s the thing. No one is going to be as good as Scalia (I know it’s so uncool to say that). Scalia was a giant and probably the most learned man to ever sit on the Court. There are two or three rulings that he made that I’d say tarnish his tenure (Reich v. Ashcroft and the EEOC ruling against native Americans). So comparing the nominees to Scalia is always going to make them look less than.

        1. If any civil libertarian ever read Scalia’s solo dissent in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld would weep at the fact that it wasn’t the majority opinion

          1. Thank you for that recommendation. Very well written indeed. Should be read by all.

            I think Bush and Obama read that right before they started playing video games with drones against american citizens.

          2. How about Thomas’ disssent?

      4. He had Don Willett on the list – the link is to his endorsements, so you can get an idea of who supports him.

        1. He was endorsed by Ron Paul. Game, set, match

      5. I think that he mentioned he would appoint Judges “like Scalia”, but he has as much understanding of what that means as any other New York Democrat would.

  3. Tony “the new professionalism” Scalia? That darling of the criminal defense world? The grand champion of the WoD on SCotUS?

    1. I caught that too. Scalia had his moments but he also had some horrible decisions on the 4th Amendment. But he is dead now so Root feels free to distort his actual record in order to concern troll conservatives. “If only conservatives could be as reasonable as Tony Scalia”.

      It is a sorry ass tactic and one that should be beneath reason. Is that hard to just tell the damned truth?

      1. When you spend your time courting the left, the truth will not do.

      2. That…. ain’t how I read it, John.

        Though I do realize the two of us likely are going to read these things a bit differently.

        1. Since Pryor is now rumored to be one of the favorites to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, it’s worth comparing their respective records on criminal justice. Whereas Pryor has proven himself to be a dependable vote in favor of law enforcement, Scalia frequently ruled against the aggressive tactics employed by police and prosecutors. Indeed, Scalia himself liked to joke that he “ought to be the darling of the criminal defense bar” thanks to his opinions in favor of broad Fourth Amendment protections. “I have defended criminal defendants’ rights?because they’re there in the original Constitution?to a greater degree than most judges have,” Scalia said.

          Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said for the pro-government jurisprudence of Judge William Pryor.

          I don’t see how you read that any other way than Root distorting Scalia’s record to concern troll conservatives. Sorry but Justice “the new professionalism” should not be remembered as some great friend of the criminal defense bar or enemy of aggressive police tactics. I can’t stomach that and I liked Scalia.

          1. Scalia frequently ruled against the aggressive tactics employed by police and prosecutors.

            I think the whole question comes down to whether or not this is true. The other comments were quotes from Scalia himself.

            I don’t know if it is or not. I mostly remember his bad criminal justice related decisions.

            1. No question Scalia thought of himself as some great friend to criminal defendants. He was also one of the most arrogant egotistical people on earth. He thought a lot of things about himself.

              To the extent that Scalia was good, it had nothing to do with reigning in aggressive tactics. Scalia’s good decisions were when he strictly interpreted laws and the constitution and that benefited criminal defendants in relation to charging and sentencing. But he was generally very deferential to the police. He did not do much of anything to curb the aggressive tactics of police. Maybe a bit to curb prosecutors who wanted to charge under broad interpretations of the law but that is about it.

        2. Forget it, Juvenile Bluster. John is on a roll. Best to just let him wall-text it out of his system.

      3. The lefties are scared shitless that Trump will get a constitutionalist justice appointed and then when RBG croaks, he nominates another constitutionalist. With Thomas that would make three Libertarian-ish justices who could probably sway the other two conservative justices to vote with them, effectively scaling back nearly 100 years of progressive/socialist agendas.

        Plus, it take a Rule of Four to grant certiorari. So, three constitutionalists and a swayed justice could alter what the court hears each term.

    2. Scalia was for constitutionally limited government except when he wasn’t.

  4. loved by conservatives because of his ‘titanium spine.’

    *** facepalm ***

    1. Hated by liberals for his aluminum cock.

      1. His porn name is The Terminator.

        1. Ok, put him on the bench. The Terminator and Long Dong Silver can have a boys night on the first Sunday in October.

          1. I don’t think the buddy flick has ever been properly exploited as a medium for porn. So you may be onto something.

            1. Of course it has. Is Rule 34 not a thing anymore?

            2. They could have an offshoot series on Skinamax where they travel the country in an RV, fighting legal injustice and screwing pretty girls. Call it Route 69.

    1. The tweets alone would be worth it!

  5. Am I going to have to make another Pryor restraint joke?

    1. That was his first porn movie. “The Terminator stars in Pryor Restraint”.

      1. I’m waiting for Habeas Copulus to come out.

    2. Please don’t.

    3. Wasn’t that Richard Pryor’s last album?

  6. Many conservatives seem especially enamored by the fact that Pryor once described Roe v. Wade as the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.”

    Regardless of how you feel about about abortion, he’s correct.

    1. OK, not the worst. But top 10.

      1. Definitely top 10. You would have to put Dred Scott, Plessy and Wickard above it, but after that it starts to get very debatable.

        1. And Kelo. Kelo is definitely top 5 imnsho

          1. All Kelo says is the government can force you to sell. That is bad but at least you get compensated. Things like Dred Scott and Wickard are much worse.

      2. I think that clarification is a big part of the criticism.

    2. Worse than Dredd Scott? Korematsu? Kelo?

      1. Worse than Kelo and Korematsu not as bad as Dredd Scott.

        1. I’d put Korematsu at #2 behind Dred Scott or maybe #3 after Buck v. Bell.

          Roe doesn’t even crack my top 10, but Kelo does.

    3. Roe v. Wade as the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.

      That fuck? That opinion invalided a criminal law by finding a right to privacy under the 14th Amendment.

      “The Court asserted that the “right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the district court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

      It’s the best law regardless of how you feel about abortion.

      1. That fuck? That opinion invalided a criminal law by finding a right to privacy under the 14th Amendment.

        And it is a completely illogical mess that even liberal jurists don’t believe anymore. And just because it invalidates a “criminal law” doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good decision. Some criminal laws are good and invalidating them wrong. And just because “privacy” is good in the abstract doesn’t make torturing the law to bring a right to privacy forth where none exists is a good idea.

        1. And some criminal laws are BAD but it doesn’t mean they are unconstitutional nor does it mean the reasoning used to overturn them is good reasoning consisitent with the constitution

          iow, a law can be bad and not constitutional

          and law can be unconstitutional and a ruling can overrule it and be right (that it is unconstitutional) but wrong as to why.

      2. Simple QUESTION?

        Have you read it? Not excerpts, not analysis, but the entire decision?

        It is RIDICULOUS.

        And I am pro choice and want it to be legal in every state. But the reasoning is ridiculous

      3. As much as I like a right to privacy, and think that abortion should be legal, it’s still a bit of a stretch.

        It would be nice if they would be consistent about this right to privacy too. It should also invalidate most drug laws and other laws that regulate what people do with their own private property and any kind of warrantless domestic surveillance.

        1. EXACTLY.

          it’s not even applied consistently

          even if one were to accept arguendo that abortion laws are unconstitutional because right to privacy (lets not even get into penumbras and emanations) then the fact that prostitution and drug use are illegal and constitutional is ridiculous

    4. Not as bad as parts of Sebelius (it’s a tax for one purpose but a penalty for another) and if we’re including cases no one cares about nowhere near as bad as Casey Martin, where SCOTUS decided that it was up to the court to define the physical activities involved in a sport, that walking twenty miles was not significantly more physically taxing than riding twenty miles in a golf cart and that the court must level the playing field in competitive sports when competitors with handicaps are at a disadvantage because playing a sport is the same thing as having access to a commercial establishment.

      1. Yes. I suggest head starts in the 100m race handicapped by best qualifying time (disparate racial impact ftw)

    5. One of the favorite exercises of prog constitutional law profs and their ilk is to say “how would you write an honest and intelligently-reasoned version of Roe”? Because they know Roe doesn’t cut it.

      The one thing the Roe justices got right was that if the fetus is a person, then the 14th Amendment would *forbid* legalized abortion. So they said “oh, well, who really knows if they’re people or not?”

      Which, as Ronald Reagan once put it, is like saying, “who knows if this guy is dead or not, let’s bury him anyway.”

  7. I’m pro choice and want abortion to be “safe, legal and rare” to quote a Clinton, but Pryor IS right.

    I challenge anybody to READ Roe v. Wade. Ime, the vast majority have not, whether abortion rights advocates or opponents.

    It’s a fucking mess.

    Again, abortion should be legal on demand in the first trimester and limited in the later trimesters but that doesn’t mean the reasoning in Roe is sound.

    1. Not inclined to expend much energy, but Roe didn’t establish the legal precedent; it merely extended Griswold from contraception to abortion. No Griswold, no Roe.

    2. It is funny, too. Because I think your opinion is very much in line with a large majority of Americans. I personally prefer calling myself mildly pro-life, but basically I fall in the same place as you. When there is a question of the liberty of the mother to control her own body vs. the liberty of the baby to its own life, it seems that the extremes are easy to figure out. The mother gets the benefit of the doubt (in the legal sense) when compared to a fertilized egg. OTH, a baby which could survive outside the womb gets the benefit of the doubt.

      1. I am very pro life but am skeptical enough of criminal law that I see no way an abortion ban could ever be effectively enforced without taking really nasty and draconian measures, that would never be taken. I don’t support passing laws that can’t be enforced consistent with justice.

        I think abortion ought to be regulated so that we don’t have Kermit Gosnels and should never be funded with tax money. But that is as far as I go.

        1. so you think abortion on demand in the 9th month is groovy?

          see, I don’t. and the vast majority of the public agrees. Like Bear says, when it comes to “clump of cells”, I’m libertarian as fuck.

          when it comes to an organism that has a brain, and is functionally no different from a baby, it just happens to be inside a person vs outside – I think it deserves some protection.

          I have no idea what you are talking about with “abortion” ban. Third trimester abortions are generally difficult and complex procedures and we already limit them substantially and the law works just fine

          1. I don’t think that’s what John thinks. The existing bans on most third trimester abortions seem to be something that most people find reasonable. Almost no one seeks an elective abortion that late. It’s the complete ban on all abortion that would be unenforceable without all kinds of horrible draconian measures.

            1. oh sure. I agree with that.

              nevermind, cheddar

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