Hank  Adler

What are the chances that Bernardine Dohrn, the wife of Bill Ayres, and a principal signatory on the Weather Underground's "Declaration of a State of War" in May 1970 could be appointed as a judge in a Federal Court?


Dohrn graduated with honors with a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Chicago and subsequently graduated from the University of Chicago Law School. Until August 2013, she was a clinical Associate Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law. Bernardine Dohrn's resume is almost as appealing as the President's resume when he was elected to the presidency.

Bernardine's husband was a tenured professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and close friend of the President of the United States. Clearly a dynamic duo.

OK, Dohrn's chances of being appointed to the Federal Bench are probably not very good because of that Weather Underground thing. But who would have ever thought she would have been teaching at Northwestern's prestigious law school?

Is this a real concern? Specifically, no. In political speak: ABSOLUTELY!

Assuming that the Republicans don't make some fundamental error in terms of candidates or electioneering, they will elect a Republican majority to the United States Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives on November 4, 2014. (Granted not making a fundamental error is a huge assumption.) That will put a Lame Duck Congress in place for the final two months of 2014. That Lame Duck Congress will include a six pack or more of retiring by choice and not re-elected Democratic senators. Retiring senators and those senators not re-elected will be answerable to no one.

There are just under ninety vacancies on the Federal Courts. There are a zillion unfilled other Federal appointments that require Senate approval. The U.S. Senate under Majority Leader Harry Reid with his Democratic majority determined in 2013 that it only takes a majority of the U.S. Senate to make appointments to the bench. (Forget one hundred plus years of precedent.) There is no reason to believe that at any moment, the Democratic majority could not determine that no Federal appointment, Supreme Court to the most minor Federal appointment could not be made by a majority vote in the U.S. Senate.

Replacing the Ides of March, the period between Tuesday, November 4, 2104 and January 3, 2015, the first day of the 114th Congress could be the scariest month in U.S. politics since the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter. With political careers essentially over unless appointed to the Federal bench or as ambassadors to China by President Obama, what would cause these Democratic senators not to support virtually any nominees by the President. Perhaps not Bernardine Dohrn, but perhaps nominees that Ms. Dohrn could fully support.

Is there any way to force Democratic senator to the sidelines if they are not re-elected? Maybe.

An aggressive senatorial candidate might find the nerve to ask for a contractual commitment from the Democratic Senator running for re-election. A real contract. How about this:

I, Senator ______________ understand that there is a concern that if I should not be re-elected, after the election, I might vote to approve nominees of the President of the United States that the newly elected Senator, voted in by the people of our State would not approve. I believe in the voice of the voters of our State. As a result, for the receipt of the sum of one dollar ($1.00), I agree that if i am not re-elected, I will not vote in favor of or against any nominee for any position in my role as a Member of the United States Senate after the election date. If I violate this contract, I promise to pay to the University of ____________________ on or before June 1, 2015, a sum equal to forty percent of my net worth, an amount confirmed by a national accounting firm.

A Democratic senator could use this pledge as a positive in his/her election campaign. The key is that the voters would be protected from the possibility that this President could turn the courts and various agencies far, far left after his realization that no far left nominees will be approved during the remainder of his presidency. If used in 2014, these contracts could become a staple of future elections.

Hank Adler

Hank Adler is an Assistant Professor at Chapman University.

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