Activists call on Lisa Murkowski to carefully vet new Supreme Court nominee

Judge Brett Kavanaugh nominated by President Donald Trump to the Supreme Court. | Image Source:...
Judge Brett Kavanaugh nominated by President Donald Trump to the Supreme Court. | Image Source: US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit / MGN(KALB)
Published: Jul. 9, 2018 at 6:55 PM AKDT
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Even before Brett Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump to the U.S. Supreme Court Monday evening, activists in Alaska were urging that any nomination be carefully vetted.

A press conference outside the federal building, and then a demonstration at the downtown building that houses offices for Alaska’s two U.S. senators, focused on the role of Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the appointment process.

Murkowski, considered a moderate, was urged at the news conference to carefully vet the new judge. And the ACLU of Alaska on Monday concluded a “six figure” television ad buy that urged her to demand that the nominated justice take a “clear public position” on abortion rights.

The right to an abortion has been the law since 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided the landmark case Roe v. Wade. But abortion foes have urged the decision be overturned, and that could happen if the court’s ideology undergoes a significant shift.

At the news conference at the federal building, other issues besides abortion arose. Heather Kendall-Miller, a Native Rights attorney, said subsistence could be at risk. The Supreme Court, for instance, could throw out the precedent set in the subsistence fishing cases of elder Katie John, she said, because Katie John was the basis for an appellate court decision against John Sturgeon, the man challenged by federal authorities for operating a hovercraft in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.

With the Sturgeon case accepted by the Supreme Court, a decision in his favor could reduce or eliminate subsistence fishing if rivers are determined to be subject to only state and not federal jurisdiction.

“If that decision is overturned, all the waters in the state will turn back to state management and we will see civil disobedience on a huge scale next summer as well as Native people coming out and contest the fact that subsistence should be a priority for rural Alaskans,” Kendall-Miller said.

Youth leader Emma Potter urged people to consider the future.

“This nomination will last for decades, long past the careers of those politicians in power today, and impact the lives and careers of my generation as the leaders of Alaska’s tomorrow,” Potter said. She cited marriage rights for same-sex couples and immigration laws as other issues that the nominee could affect.

And retired Superior Court Judge John Reese said the new justice could rule on matters pertaining to the Pebble mining project near Bristol Bay.

Roe v. Wade, however, was the central focus of the demonstration, called by an organization called Indivisible. More than 30 protesters milled in front of the entrance of Peterson Tower, the building on L Street housing the Senate offices of Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan.

While Sullivan has pledged a “rigorous” nomination process, Murkowski was the main target of the demonstrators. Media accounts said she declined to attend the nomination announcement at the White House, and a statement she issued said she intended to review Kavanaugh's past decisions and his writings.

Planned Parenthood issued a statement urging Murkowski to protect women's rights.

"We are counting on Sen. Murkowski to stand up once again and ensure that people across the country, no matter their zip code or income, will have access to a full range of reproductive health care," the organization said.

“She’s obviously one of the so-called moderates,” said demonstration leader Shoshanah Stone. “On one hand, she has said that she supports Planned Parenthood and women’s issues, but on the other hand she has voted for all the radical judges that have been put forward.”

The demonstrators, mostly women, carried coat hangers — a symbol of backstreet abortions — and signs saying, “Without Roe v Wade, Women Will Die.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski issued the following statement:

“This evening the President nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. While I have not met Judge Kavanaugh, I look forward to sitting down for a personal meeting with him. I intend to review Judge Kavanaugh’s decisions on the bench and writings off the bench, and pay careful attention to his responses to questions posed by my colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Judiciary will also review Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications prior to these hearings and issue a rating. I intend to carefully consider that rating, the information obtained through personal meetings, my own review of Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications and record, and the views of Alaskans in determining whether or not to support him. My standard for reviewing Supreme Court nominees remains rigorous and exacting.”