Mondale defends Franken role in blocking judge

Former Vice President Walter Mondale knows the law. He also knows the Senate. And he’s firmly on the side of Sen. Al Franken in opposition to Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras’ appointment to the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Franken has blocked a hearing for Stras’ nomination because the justice once clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

“I fear that Justice Stras’s views and philosophy would lead him to reinforce those divisions and steer the already conservative Eighth Circuit even further to the right,” Franken said in announcing his opposition last week.

That’s the right call, Mondale writes today in a Star Tribune op-ed, countering a Strib editorial castigating Franken.

Republicans have built an efficient pipeline to the judiciary, through which hard-right legal thinkers can be cultivated for the highest federal courts. The process is well-known by now. A judge will participate heavily in the Federalist Society and similar groups, but maintain an ambiguous record about the most far-reaching constitutional issues.

Because state and lower courts are less likely to decide those issues, a judge’s true leanings become apparent only once he or she receives lifetime tenure on a federal appeals court, or even the Supreme Court itself.

Justice Stras has received the blessing of the right-wing judicial pipeline. He was active in the Federalist Society, and he has emphasized his connection to jurists like Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.

Last year, Trump placed Stras’ name on a shortlist of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees, in an effort to placate Republicans unnerved by his candidacy. It’s fair to assume that conservative activists would not consider giving a Supreme Court seat to someone whose record is ambiguous or neutral.

Mondale says Stras is skeptical of U.S. Supreme Court precedent that protects civil rights.

Franken is just going his job, Mondale writes.

“And doing it well,” he said.

Related: Franken-Stras faceoff leads to silly ad by conservative group (NewsCut)