U.S. Supreme Court

In Lawrence v. Texas, in an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas law in a 6–3 decision, making same-sex sexual activity legal in the U.S. Gordon Giampietro, who is nominated to be a federal judge in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, once said Kennedy “went off the rails” in writing that 2003 opinion. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO


Even by the low standards that President Trump has set for selecting his judicial nominees, Gordon Giampietro, the president’s pick to fill an open federal judgeship for Wisconsin’s Eastern District, is an exceptionally bad prospect.

Giampietro, an assistant general counsel at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, has displayed a shocking disregard for mainstream judicial thinking. On issue after issue after issue — from civil rights to marriage equality to reproductive rights — he has rejected conventional conservatism to express opinions that place him on the fringe of American political discourse.

Giampietro’s comments regarding same-sex marriage in particular and gay rights in general have raised concerns not just in Wisconsin but nationally.

The Trump nominee has described marriage equality as “an assault on nature” and attacked Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and the majority on the high court for effectively affirming the right of same-sex couples to marry. In a radio interview, Giampietro suggested Americans could “ignore Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion, because it’s not really legal reasoning.”

Giampietro once ripped Kennedy, a Ronald Reagan appointee who generally sides with the court’s conservatives but sometimes breaks with them to provide a “swing vote” on social issues, as a jurist who “went off the rails” in 2003, when the justice wrote a majority opinion that struck down archaic anti-gay laws.

That decision, in the case of Lawrence v. Texas, was decided with a 6-3 majority, and has been widely complimented and embraced by members of the legal community from across the ideological spectrum.

“Sadly, Gordon Giampietro manages to stand out among a number of unfit, anti-LGBTQ judicial nominees put forward by the Trump-Pence administration,” said Wendy Strout, who serves as Wisconsin manager for the Human Rights Campaign, a national civil rights organization that advocates on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer equality. “Giampietro’s extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is deeply disturbing and should not be rewarded with a lifetime judicial appointment representing Wisconsin on the federal court. If confirmed, Wisconsinites could not count on Giampietro to uphold their civil rights.”

But Giampietro is not merely biased against LGBTQ rights.

The Alliance for Justice reported that Giampietro has openly disparaged the Civil Rights Act of 1964, claiming that "calls for diversity” are “code for relaxed standards.” He has harshly criticized the public school system, which is committed to providing opportunities to all children. His comments showing hostility to legally established reproductive rights for women and to marriage equality have been widely reported. His failure to fully disclose aspects of his record to Wisconsin’s nominating commission, as well as his overt hostility to the rights of millions of his fellow members of society, calls into question his ability to execute the job of a federal judge with fairness and integrity.

The outcry against Giampietro‘s nomination has intensified as his sordid record has been revealed.

Last week Todd Cox, the policy director for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said, “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 enshrined unprecedented protections against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin in so many facets of American life. The idea that a judicial nominee would disparage this essential law, born from centuries of resistance and sacrifice, is insulting. We need federal judges who understand the inherent value of every American, regardless of the color of their skin. Unfortunately, Gordon Giampietro does not meet this basic standard.”

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said: “Gordon Giampietro has a history of bias and bigotry that renders him unfit to serve as a fair and neutral judge. He has made intemperate remarks about Supreme Court precedents, and he has demonstrated a hostility to LGBTQ equality, diversity, women’s reproductive freedom, and the value of public schools. It is also disconcerting that he failed to disclose some of his past remarks to the Wisconsin bipartisan federal nominating commission that considered his suitability for the bench. A member of that commission has publicly stated that they would not have forwarded Mr. Giampietro’s name to their senators had they been aware of his extreme views. Mr. Giampietro should not receive a lifetime appointment as a federal judge.”

Appreciate these insights? Get Cap Times opinion sent daily to your inbox

Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin has raised concerns about Giampietro's extreme stances and about the nominee's failure to be frank with the Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission during the vetting process for potential nominees to the federal bench. “Both what was said and the fact that it was not disclosed to the commission raise serious questions about whether this nominee would be able to serve as a fair and impartial judge on a federal court,” explained Baldwin’s spokesman.

Baldwin is right.

Serious questions about the Giampietro nomination have been raised.

To our view, because Giampietro‘s controversial statements have been so recent and so frequent, and because they have attacked sound judicial precedent, he has disqualified himself.

Gordon Giampietro should withdraw his own nomination. If he does not, every effort should be made — by citizens and senators — to prevent this biased nominee from getting anywhere near the federal judiciary, which he has so aggressively disparaged.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.