Wilson is an ideologue committed to using the power of the judiciary to implement ultraconservative policies, not to be a neutral, unbiased jurist.
Wilson has not hesitated to make broad, insulting generalizations about those who disagree with him politically, showing a lack of respect for his opponents and a narrow mind about the issues he is likely to confront as a federal judge. For example, in an op-ed, he claimed that his wife’s parameters for their Thanksgiving location were “no state that voted Democrat.” He said that an “intellectually honest Democrat” was a “rare sighting” and “exotic creature.”
He repeatedly demeaned President Obama, who he referred to as “King Barack” and the “Anointed One.” He attacked Obama for playing golf (there is no similar criticism of President Trump’s far-more prolific golf outings), labeled Obama a “radical leftist,” “shrill, dishonest, and intellectually bankrupt,” and accused Obama of running the “most paranoid and politicized White House since Nixon’s.” He said those who support Obama were drinking “Kool-Aid” – which would include over 528,000 Mississippians in 2012. He described taking “an old-fashioned great American road trip,” before sniping, “[b]efore the Obama EPA makes those illegal.” He bemoaned that “Success is the root of all evil. Every kid gets a trophy. And the favored kids get a green-energy grant/Obamacare waiver/union payoff.”
Wilson peddled right-wing talking points about Hilary Clinton email server and the Clinton Foundation. He called her “criminal and clueless,” pondered whether she is “felony dumb or willfully ignorant,” and accused her of destroying documents under subpoena, a charge which the FBI found no evidence to support. Clinton hasn’t been his only target. He also publicly called Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “claptrap.”
Wilson has also ruthlessly attacked the press with comments that undermine his ability to properly protect the First Amendment. He asserted, “The ‘media’ are now so slanted as to be dangerously unreliable.” “The legacy media have largely abdicated their vital function of speaking truth to power. Democrats get a free pass; Republicans get ‘accountability’; Tea Partiers get mocked.” He wrote, “The mainstream media seem to be actively rigging the 2012 election.” “Sort of like President Obama’s miserable record in office, the media’s heavy left slant has now been so frequently pointed out, with clear evidence, that it becomes background noise.”
President Trump explicitly said he would nominate judges who are hostile to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and who “will do the right thing unlike Bush’s appointee John Roberts on Obamacare.” Wilson meets that test. If he could, evidence suggests that he would eliminate protections for 130 million people with preexisting conditions and take away health insurance from 19 million Americans.
He called the ACA “illegitimate” and “perverse” because it passed without Republican votes. By this logic, the Republican giveaway to the wealthiest Americans (the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017) was also illegitimate, as it passed on a party-line vote without any support from Democrats.
Wilson also said the Supreme Court should invalidate the ACA: “For the sake of the Constitution, I hope the Court strikes down the law and reinvigorates some semblance of the limited government the Founders intended.”
He called the ACA “big intrusive government,” and said, “Obamacare is less about healthcare than it is about redistribution of wealth and power.” In fact, the ACA insured over 20 million Americans, cutting America’s uninsured population in half.
Wilson opposed the expansion of Medicaid in Mississippi, calling it the “ever-expanding welfare state.” This refusal to expand Medicaid has been disastrous, perhaps even deadly in its failure to cover the roughly 100,000 Mississippians who would have qualified for coverage under the proposed expansion.
Wilson supports banning embryonic stem cell research, critical research used to discover new treatments for a range of life-threatening diseases.
As a threshold matter, the Senate should not be processing any lifetime judicial nominees because President Trump remains under the cloud of impeachment for actions undermining the core foundation of our constitutional democracy: free and fair elections. During the impeachment trial, his lawyer argued that nothing Trump does to stay in power can be impeachable because Trump believes his reelection is in the public interest. This view seeks to legitimize his effort to rig the 2020 elections. Moreover, it eliminates the most important constitutional protection against a lawless executive: impeachment and removal. When the Senate majority voted to bar witnesses and end the trial prematurely, they accepted this frightening and dangerous distortion of our Constitution. The sham trial made clear that Senate Republicans cannot be trusted to adequately vet judicial nominations, because their agenda is diametrically opposed to the goals of a properly functioning judicial system.
But some partisan rhetoric is so toxic, so dishonest, and so openly contemptuous of those with different views that it would not be possible for litigants to trust that the person who expressed it would decide their case fairly. Unfortunately, that is the type of rhetoric Wilson has specialized in.
As an example, in 2014, Wilson wrote a newspaper column calling the Affordable Care Act “perverse” and “illegitimate.”i For an attorney, calling a law illegitimate is a strong statement, and it certainly offers insight on how he would regard that law as a judge. Part of his justification was the fact that no Republicans voted for the law. But his party’s decision to oppose insurance coverage for their constituents with pre-existing conditions spoke to the values and priorities of those members of Congress, not the legitimacy of the law. The Constitution makes clear that a bill must pass both houses of Congress to become law; it does not have the additional requirement that Republicans must agree with it. Wilson’s other justification for calling the law perverse and illegitimate—that members of Congress made deals to get the bill passed—would likely make nearly every major piece of legislation ever passed by Congress illegitimate. Again, his position is unmoored from reason and the rule of law.
Wilson wrote numerous newspaper columns that were factually inaccurate and dripping with undisguised scorn for President Obama. For instance, when President Obama made the simple (and correct) assertion in 2012 that the Affordable Care Act would be upheld by the courts because it is constitutional, Wilson distorted the president’s statement in a way designed to inflame Obama-haters and delegitimize his presidency:
I hope the [Supreme] Court checks Obama’s dangerous standard of what is constitutional: Obamacare “will be upheld because it should be upheld.” A valid law is what King Barack says is a valid law. His comments Monday are a clear glimpse of Obama’s imperial mind.iv
The nominee’s hostility extends to progressives in general, and he used his column as an opportunity to disseminate falsehoods about those he disagreed with. For instance, he wrote:
[E]nlightened liberals everywhere have honestly believed from the inception of this debate: The power of government is unlimited and should be used by the governing class to impose whatever it wishes on the rest of us. The liberal mindset views the checks and balances designed by the Founders, and anyone who still adheres to them, as quaint historical relics.ix
No one who actually believes this caricature can be trusted by litigants and the public to competently and without bias assess complex legal arguments about how constitutional checks and balances function in the real world. Similarly, Wilson wrote that an “intellectually honest Democrat” is a “relic of days gone by,” and “very seldom do they actually hold office.”xHe characterized those who disagree with progressives as “the real Americans”xi Any Democratic litigant, or for that matter, any progressive one in Wilson’s courtroom would know that the judge has already determined that they are intellectually dishonest, a bias from the bench that would be toxic to the legitimacy of any Fifth Circuit decision Wilson was part of.
Abortion Rights: Wilson is a longtime opponent of abortion rights. When he ran for office in 2007, he made that clear in a questionnaire he filled out for Mississippi Right to Life. He told them that he “support[ed] the complete and immediate reversal of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions.”
Washington, D.C. — After President Donald Trump nominated Cory Wilson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, Maggie Jo Buchanan, director of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:
President Trump’s decision to nominate an extreme political partisan such as Cory Wilson to the federal appeals court is an insult to the American people as they face the coronavirus pandemic. Wilson has long opposed access to health care, repeatedly writing op-eds disparaging the Affordable Care Act and its supporters. He has ridiculed the idea of same-sex marriage, pledged to overturn Roe v. Wade, and voted to gut key protections for women’s reproductive freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Constitution. His long-standing, extremist record has demonstrated clear hostility to the rights of families across the country. By supporting him for the appellate bench, Trump is showing how little he cares about Americans’ access to health care and their well-being.
He is anti-abortion. Wilson is a former Mississippi State House Representative with a history of taking extreme positions. We’re not saying that politicians can’t make good judges, but we can certainly judge him for his anti-abortion record. Before getting elected, Mr. Wilson made clear his anti-abortion position in a questionnaire from the Mississippi Right to Life’s State Political Action Committee. He indicated that he would support “complete and immediate reversal of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions;” he would vote to “prevent the use of tax funds for abortion other than to prevent the death of the mother;” and, he would oppose “any attempts to weaken” Mississippi’s existing law requiring parental consent for minors seeking an abortion. He followed through on his anti-abortion views once in office. He voted for bills that would ban abortion as early as 6 weeks and after 15 weeks of pregnancy. He also voted for a bill that would imprison an abortion provider for performing a safe and common abortion procedure and a bill that blocks patients who rely on Medicaid for family planning care from going to their trusted provider, Planned Parenthood.
He is hostile toward LGBTQ equality. Even before he was a legislator, Mr. Wilson was a prolific conservative writer who was outspoken about his anti- LGBTQ views. In a 2012 piece, Mr. Wilson wrote that “gay marriage is a pander to liberal interest groups and an attempt to cast Republicans as intolerant, uncaring and even bigoted.” He continued, “the idea of homosexual marriage was so beyond seriousness that I thought it could never happen. I soon came to see that ‘tolerance,’ as that term is used by liberals, really means zero tolerance for traditional, religious or conservative views. The culture warriors on the left demand unconditional surrender.” In another 2012 piece, he goes as far as to victimize those who oppose gay marriage: “[s]o it has come to this. Private citizens who dare oppose marriage ‘equality’ (read: full sanction of homosexual marriage) will now be bashed, banned, and bankrupted, simply for expressing their views.” As a Mississippi representative, he continued his anti-LGBTQ bias, including voting for one of the nation’s most extreme anti-LGBTQ laws. The law gives broad-sweeping permissions for Mississippians to refuse service to LGBTQ people and people who have sex outside of marriage. For example, it allows state employees to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, public school counselors to turn away LGBTQ youth in crisis, and health care providers to deny transgender people access to healthcare.
We are not surprised that the Senate majority would advance such an extreme nominee to the federal judiciary. The Senate’s failure to conduct a full and fair impeachment trial, compounded with its failure to hold a fair and impartial confirmation process for now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, gives us even more reason to be deeply doubtful of its ability to fulfill its constitutional obligations. Sadly, with the Senate’s decision to continue processing extreme judicial nominees instead of working to restore our faith in democracy, we will continue to have horrible nominees like Cory Wilson being shoehorned onto the federal judiciary.