Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on Judges

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


On Neil Gorsuch:                     Voted No. [i]

  • In a fundraising email, she stated: “President Trump just announced Neil Gorsuch as his nominee to the Supreme Court, and I’m ready to consider him on his merits,” the missive reads. “But President Trump has made it clear that he wants a justice who will carry on Scalia’s legacy of limiting Americans’ constitutional rights…If that is the case, let me make one thing very clear: You can count on me to fight back against ANY nomination that threatens the rights of Americans.”[ii]
  • “Gillibrand said in an interview that she believes Justice Neil Gorsuch essentially possesses an illegitimate seat after Garland was denied even a committee hearing. The New York Democrat added that the Senate should move swiftly to impose strict ethics rules on the Supreme Court.”[iii]
  • “Unfortunately, Judge Gorsuch has proven to have a judicial philosophy outside of the mainstream and time and again has subjugated individual rights to those of corporations...I plan to stand up for individuals over corporations and oppose his nomination....”[iv]


On Brett Kavanaugh:              Voted No.[v]

  •  “If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, he would tip the balance of the Supreme Court even more against workers’ rights, civil rights, and women’s rights for decades to come. I do not think he is the right choice for our country, and I am going to vote against him and urge my colleagues to do the same….I strongly oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and I urge all New Yorkers to raise their voices and join me in opposing him. We need a justice who will protect the rights of all people in our state — not just some.”[vi]


Her Opposition to Trump’s Nominees:

Overall, Senator Gillibrand voted in favor of just 15 of President Trump’s judicial nominees during the last Congress, or just over 26% of 57 nominated.[vii]

Regarding President Trump’s judicial nominees, Senator Gillibrand is on the record stating:

  • “President Trump and Senate Republicans are stacking the courts with extremist right-wing judges who are not independent or impartial. The decision to move forward with these nominees without the support of both home-state Senators is unacceptable. As long as Senate Republicans are going to preside over a broken process, I will oppose all Circuit Court nominations. The American people deserve a judiciary that is fair and unbiased.” [viii]
  • “Demand Justice, a liberal group that works to galvanize Democratic engagement on the federal judiciary, said Gillibrand ‘has quickly emerged as one of the most consistent allies in the fight against Donald Trump's court-packing" and others "ought to immediately follow her lead.’” [ix]


Position on Expanding the Supreme Court:

  • “Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand told POLITICO they would not rule out expanding the Supreme Court if elected president, showcasing a new level of interest in the Democratic field on an issue that has until recently remained on the fringes of debate.”[x]
  • On March 19, 2019, The Hill reported:  “Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) told “Pod Save America” that the idea [of adding Supreme Courts justices and term limits to Supreme Court justices’ tenure]  was ‘interesting’ and she would ‘need to think more about it.’”[xi]


What kind of Supreme Court justice would she appoint?:

  • “Kirsten Gillibrand is promising that, if elected president, she’ll only appoint Supreme Court justices who will support the Roe v. Wade decision, imposing a key legal litmus test that's consistent with most Democrats' values but which White House contenders don't usually express so openly.”[xii]
  • She announced in a self-authored article on May 7th: “So today, I'm announcing that as president, I will only nominate judges—including Supreme Court justices — who will commit to upholding Roe v. Wade as settled law and protect women's reproductive rights.”[xiii]
  • As of March 13, 2019, Time reported: “Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York says she’s open to packing the court with reliably liberal justices.”[xiv]


Her views about the role of the courts:

Most notably, she advocated for a “pro-choice litmus test” requirement for judicial candidates and would consider imposing term limits on Supreme Court justices (see above). More recently, Senator Gillibrand expressed skepticism toward federal judges and justices, stating: “I do believe we need a full transparency agenda put in place for [the justices] because they are no longer public servants in the way that we have always imagined them to be[.]”[xv]


Last Updated: May 17, 2019


Works Cited:

[i] (115th Congress, First Session RCV No 111).




[v] (115th Congress, Second Session RCV No 223).


[vii] She voted for the “yea” for the following judicial confirmation roll call votes: (115th Congress, First Session RCV Nos. 280, 207, 158; (115th Congress, Second Session RCV Nos. 145, 115, 113, 93, 92, 65, 49, 46, 9, 7, 5, 3.