Kamala Harris on Judges: It's Not about Precedent; It's Personal

Joe Biden has reportedly picked Kamala Harris as his Vice Presidential running mate.  RNLA has followed her closely, and below, we list her views on judicial nominees and the judicial nominating process for your information.  More will be published in the coming days.   

On Neil Gorsuch: Voted against confirming.[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]
  • 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.”[4]


On Brett Kavanaugh: Voted against confirming.[5]

  • “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.”[6]
  • “The support against Kavanaugh’s nomination in this next week must be overwhelming. Jam the phone lines. Flood inboxes. Protest.”[7]
  • Harris then sent a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler. The letter asked Nadler to investigate certain reports about Justice Kavanaugh and hold him accountable for inappropriate behavior and contradictions of his prior testimony before the committee.[8]


Senator Harris' opposition to Trump’s judicial nominees: 

  • Voted against Trump judicial nominations 81% of the time.[9]
  • 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.”[10]
  • Senator Harris, in opposing President Trump’s nominee to the D.C. Circuit, Justin Walker, focused on Walker writing in 2018 that the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — for whom the Kentucky district judge once clerked — would bring about a “conservative revolution as big as the Reagan Revolution” and predicting an end to affirmative action in America. “Let’s think about the message that advancing a judicial nominee like this sends to all of these communities of color and their allies, particularly at a time when people have taken to the streets to protest the violence and injustice that black people have faced for generations in America,” Harris said.[11]
  • A spokesman for Senator 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.”[12]
  • During President Trump’s impeachment proceedings, Senator Harris called for judicial nominees to be frozen: “The president is charged with high crimes and misdemeanors, and the Senate must take seriously its constitutional role in this process,” Harris said in a statement. “During the time when articles of impeachment are before the Senate, it would be wholly inappropriate to advance the president’s nominees to the federal judiciary.”[13]


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.”[14]

  • Senator Harris also gave consideration to the possibility of limiting how many justices one president can nominate and applying term limits to justices. Whether or not this opinion will be maintained if Biden wins the election is to be determined.[15]
  • Senator Harris’ openness to the Supreme Court is in direct opposition to the position held by Joe Biden. Joe Biden told the Iowa Starting Line, “No, I’m not prepared to go on and try to pack the court, because we’ll live to rue that day.”[16]


What kind of Supreme Court justice would she help 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.”[17]


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.”[18] 



[1] 115th Congress, First Session 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] https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Sen-Kamala-Harris-Why-I-cannot-support-Judge-11024088.php. [emphasis added]

[5] 115th Congress, Second Session RCV No. 223: https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=115&session=2&vote=00223.

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

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

[8] https://abc7news.com/judge-kavanaugh-news-today-brett-perjruy-trump-defends-allegations/5546024/.

[9] As of July 27, 2020, Senator Harris voted against Trump’s judicial nominees over 81% of the time for the judicial nominations she was present to vote on during each session of the 115th and 116th Congresses. Of the 118 roll call votes for federal judge confirmations including SCOTUS that Harris participated in, she voted against Trump’s nominees 96 times. Harris further missed 62 roll call votes over the four sessions.  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, 41, 42, 44, 50, 66, 68, 85, 87, 93, 99, 108, 110, 118, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 172, 173, 174, 175, 191, 195, 196, 197, 391) ; https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/vote_menu_116_2.htm

(116th Congress, Second Session (RCV Nos. 6, 7, 36, 41, 42, 43, 44, 62, 94, 99, 100, 103, 111, 123, 125). Senator Harris missed 62 votes on a Trump judge.  (115th Congress, 2nd Session RCV No. 203; 116th Congress 1st Session RCV Nos. 51, 62, 73, 75, 106, 114, 123, 124, 125, 126, 145, 146, 147, 205, 216, 228, 229, 236, 237, 239, 241, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257, 258, 276, 277, 278, 279, 320, 321, 322, 323, 333, 344, 348, 350, 352, 356, 358, 360, 369, 380 381, 382, 383, 384, 387, 402, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 423, 424, 425).  

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

[11] https://www.courthousenews.com/controversial-dc-circuit-nominee-advances-to-full-senate/.

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

[13] https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/478476-harris-calls-for-judicial-nominee-freeze-during-impeachment-trial.

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

[15] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-15/kamala-harris-supreme-court.

[16] https://iowastartingline.com/2019/07/05/joe-biden-interview-talk-about-the-future-in-dem-primary/.

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

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