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Harris said during the vice presidential debate that none of Trump’s appointments to the federal courts of appeals are Black. Data from the Federal Judicial Center backs up her statement.
The Florida GOP tweeted photos of four of Trump’s nominees, including three to federal district courts and one Hispanic judge to the federal court of appeals.
Harris voted against one of the four nominees and didn’t vote on the other three in 2019.
The Republican Party of Florida distorted what Sen. Kamala Harris said during the vice presidential debate about the lack of Black judges in President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees.
"[email protected]’ lies keep adding up. Yesterday she said @realdonaldtrump did not appoint minorities to the courts. These are federal judges he nominated in Florida and Kamala did not vote to confirm a single one of them," stated the tweet from @FloridaGOP.
The tweet included photos of four of Trump’s judicial picks, including three who are minorities.
The Florida GOP didn’t accurately quote what Harris said at the debate and omits context about the nominations of the four judges highlighted in the tweet.
During the debate, Vice President Mike Pence asked Harris if she and Biden plan to add more seats on the Supreme Court if Trump’s nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed and Biden wins the election.
"Let’s talk about packing the court then," Harris replied. She said that she had witnessed lifetime appointments to the federal court who are "purely ideological people" who were "not competent."
"And do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the Court of Appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is Black? This is what they've been doing," she said. "You want to talk about packing a court? Let's have that discussion."
The statement by Harris about no Black appeals court appointments by Trump is accurate, according to data from the Federal Judicial Center, the research and education agency for the nation’s federal courts.
The Florida GOP tweet includes a different class of federal judges, though both are lifetime appointments. The party highlighted three of Trump’s nominees to federal district courts in Florida and one federal appeals court judge who is a Hispanic woman.
Federal district courts are below appellate courts. There are 13 appellate courts that sit below the U.S. Supreme Court. These courts hear challenges to district court decisions.
Harris was talking about the appeals court, and the Florida GOP portrayed her as a liar at the debate by bringing up the lower court system.
Regardless, here’s what happened with the judges pictured in the Florida GOP tweet.
All four nominees pictured in the tweet had worked as judges in Florida, and all were approved by the U.S. Senate in 2019.
Harris didn’t vote on the other three nominees.
These votes took place in 2019 when Harris was running in the Democratic primary for president.
We asked spokespersons for Harris why she voted against Smith and didn’t vote on the other three and didn’t get a response to that question.
"What's behind these disputes is the fact that the administration (and Federalist Society) have emphasized above all putting young ideological conservatives on the courts of appeals. Gender, race, and other factors have been much less important," Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institution said. "So, no Blacks and only one Latino/a (Lagoa)."
Some Senate Democrats have voted against Trump’s appeals court picks because Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked President Barack Obama’s judicial appointments in 2015 and 2016.
A spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida said the tweet was warranted, arguing that Harris implied Trump "has not made appointments that reflect the diversity of our country."
"Most importantly judicial appointments should be decided based on a person’s qualifications and experience, not race, ethnicity or gender," said Alia Faraj-Johnson, spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida.
The Republican Party of Florida said Harris said Trump "did not appoint minorities to the courts." The party distorted what Harris said at the debate. Harris accurately said that Trump had not nominated any Black Americans to serve on the federal courts of appeal.
The GOP singled out three federal district court nominees who are either minorities or women and one nomination of an Hispanic woman who is an appeals court judge. It still does not prove that Harris fibbed at the debate. We rate this claim False.
Republican Party of Florida, Tweet, Oct. 8, 2020
Congress.gov, On the Nomination (Confirmation: Anuraag Singhal, of Florida, to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida), Dec. 19, 2010
Congress.gov, On the Nomination (Confirmation: Barbara Lagoa, of Florida, to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit ) Nov. 20, 2019
Federal Judicial Center, Biographical Directory of Article III Federal Judges, 1789-present
Vetting Room, Southern District of Florida posts about Rodney Smith and Anuraag Singhal and Wendy Berger and Barbara Lagoa, Accessed Oct. 9, 2020
Sun Sentinel, From liberal Broward, Donald Trump finds his latest pick for lifetime appointment as federal judge, Sept. 20, 2019
Sun Sentinel, Barbara Lagoa’s rise to Trump’s Supreme Court short list showcases conservative Federalist Society’s sway in Florida, Sept. 24, 2020
Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal, Judge Wendy Berger
Miami Herald, Skinny kid from Liberty City' confirmed by Senate for lifetime federal judgeship, June 12, 2019
Miami Herald, Rick Scott's gets three finalists for Supreme Court who have been vetted by conservative groups, Nov. 28, 2016
United States Courts, Courts and role structure
PolitiFact, Fact-check: Why Barack Obama failed to fill over 100 judgeships, Oct. 2, 2020
Email interview, Alia Faraj-Johnson, spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida, Oct. 8, 2020
Email interview, Russell Wheeler, visiting fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program and president of the Governance Institute, Oct. 8, 2020
Email interview, Rosemary Boeglin, Joe Biden campaign spokesperson, Oct. 8, 2020
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