2020 Democratic Presidential Hopefuls on Judges: Senator Kamala Harris

This is the first in a series of posts summarizing 2020 Democratic presidential candidates' views on judges and the courts.  All posts in this series can be viewed here.

Senator Kamala Harris on Judges


On Neil Gorsuch: Voted No.[1]

  • “If Judge Gorsuch joins the United States Supreme Court, his narrow approach would do real harm to real people — especially the women of America.”[2]
  • “Americans deserve a Supreme Court justice who will protect the rights of women in the workplace. Judge Gorsuch won't. #StopGorsuch[3]


On Brett Kavanaugh: Voted No.[4]

  • “Millions of Americans are rightly outraged at this hasty and unjust process, which threatens to cloud the legitimacy of the Supreme Court of the United States. And they are rightly fearful that Justice Kavanaugh will undermine Roe v. Wade, roll back access to affordable healthcare, and side with powerful and partisan interests over the most vulnerable.”[5]
  • “The support against Kavanaugh’s nomination in this next week must be overwhelming. Jam the phone lines. Flood inboxes. Protest.”[6]


Her opposition to Trump’s judicial nominees: Voted against Trump judicial nominations 72% of the time.[7] On January 31, 2019, she stated: “This Administration is packing the court that protected Dreamers from deportation and blocked the unconstitutional transgender military ban. We need nominees who will uphold equality and justice. Until a fair process is in place, I will oppose every Trump nominee to an appellate court.”[8]


A spokesman for Harris was critical of what she characterized as Republican efforts to “try to pack the courts with partisan judges who will blindly support the president’s agenda, instead of acting as an independent check on this administration.”[9]


Position on expanding the Supreme Court: On March 18, 2019, Senator Harris told Politico that she was open to expanding the SCOTUS. She said, “We are on the verge of a crisis of confidence in the Supreme Court. We have to take this challenge head on, and everything is on the table to do that.”[10]


What kind of Supreme Court justice would she appoint?: “And as I’ve said many times, had Chief Justice Earl Warren not been on the Supreme Court of the United States, he could not have led a unanimous decision and the outcome then of that case may have been very different. Had that decision not come down the way it did, I may not have had the opportunities that allowed me to become a lawyer or a prosecutor. I likely would not have been elected District Attorney of San Francisco or the Attorney General of California. And I most certainly would not be sitting here as a member of the United States Senate. A Supreme Court seat is not only about academic issues of legal precedent or judicial philosophy. It is personal.”[11]


Her views about the role of the courts: She does not appear to have made a broad philosophical statement in this regard but of the SCOTUS she said, “The Supreme Court has a profound impact on the rights—and lives—of all Americans. When at its best, it has advanced the meaning of those words above its doors, ‘Equal Justice Under Law.’ At its worst, the Supreme Court has upheld racial segregation, enabled voter suppression, and equated corporations with people. Whether or a not the Supreme Court enforces the spirit of those words, ‘Equal Justice Under Law,’ is determined by the individuals who sit on that Court.”[12]

She explained her opposition to Justice Gorsuch as, “In simple terms, [Supreme Court] Justice [Thurgood] Marshall appreciated that the ultimate goal of the law was justice. By stark contrast, Judge Gorsuch has consistently valued narrow legalisms over real lives. I must do what’s right. I cannot support his nomination.”[13]



[1] RCV No. 111: https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=115&session=1&vote=00111.

[2] https://mic.com/articles/173314/sen-kamala-harris-justice-gorsuch-would-do-real-harm-especially-to-american-women#.y6CTPoD21.

[3] https://twitter.com/KamalaHarris/status/850001429540610052.

[4] RCV No. 223: https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=115&session=2&vote=00223.

[5] https://www.harris.senate.gov/news/press-releases/senator-harris-statement-on-confirmation-of-judge-brett-kavanaugh.

[6] https://twitter.com/KamalaHarris/status/1046117909687414786.

[7] As of March 15, 2019, Senator Harris voted against Trump’s judicial nominees 46 out of 64 times in roll call votes for federal judge confirmations including SCOTUS. https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/vote_menu_115_1.htm (115th Congress, First Session RCV Nos. 111, 137, 158, 164, 182, 188, 207, 251, 253, 255, 257, 259, 261, 280, 281, 283, 313, 315, 317); https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/vote_menu_115_2.htm (115th Congress, Second Session RCV Nos. 3, 5, 7, 9, 27, 38, 42, 46, 47, 49, 65, 82, 87, 89, 92, 93, 94, 95, 113, 115, 117, 145, 160, 174, 183, 185, 200, 204, 223, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238, 239, 258); https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/vote_menu_116_1.htm (116th Congress, First Session RCV Nos. 29, 35, 37, 39, 42, 44). Senator Harris missed one vote on a Trump judge. https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=115&session=2&vote=00203 (115th Congress, 2nd Session RCV No. 203).  

[8] https://twitter.com/SenKamalaHarris/status/1091077433967689728, https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Kamala-Harris-says-she-ll-vote-against-all-of-13588919.php.

[9] https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Harris-Feinstein-Say-They-Did-Not-Sign-Off-on-Judicial-Nominees-497431271.html.

[10] https://www.politico.com/story/2019/03/18/2020-democrats-supreme-court-1223625.

[11] https://www.harris.senate.gov/news/press-releases/harris-at-kavanaugh-hearing-the-american-people-deserve-better-than-this. [emphasis added]

[12] https://www.harris.senate.gov/news/press-releases/senator-harris-statement-opposing-nomination-of-judge-kavanaugh-to-the-supreme-court.

[13] https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Sen-Kamala-Harris-Why-I-cannot-support-Judge-11024088.php. [emphasis added]