Lambda Legal Urges Senate Judiciary Committee to Oppose Kenneth Lee

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March 13, 2019

Lambda Legal sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) urging them to oppose Kenneth Lee, President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“For months, Mr. Lee has been hiding the truth about his history of propagating stereotypes that demean people living with HIV,” said Sasha Buchert, Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal. “In fact, just days before his hearing, Mr. Lee delivered a previously unreported cache of documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee which included past writings where Lee spouted homophobic tropes. The substance of his comments alone are disqualifying, but the fact that Mr. Lee withheld these documents without cause should make him immediately ineligible for this office. Lambda Legal calls on the members of the committee to reject this nominee because the American people deserve to have full transparency about the flurry of unfit candidates President Trump is nominating for lifetime appointments.”

Mr. Lee’s nomination has been fraught with procedural missteps. He lacks the support of both home state Senators and has failed to disclose several statements where he advances homophobic stereotypes in order to disparage people living with HIV. The letter highlights the following example:

“In 1994, Mr. Lee published an article entitled AIDS at RPU, in which he lambasted a Cornell University HIV awareness campaign warning students about the realities of HIV transmission … Mr. Lee then argued that since a cure ‘will likely never be discovered,’ the efforts should go—not into research—but into teaching ‘values and responsibility.’ After repeating defamatory canards about gay people, he concluded by saying, ‘To avoid AIDS, one has to only abstain from drug-use and promiscuity.’

Ever since President Trump took office, Senate Republicans have abdicated their responsibilities by ushering in multiple nominees who fail to disclose controversial writings. Such conduct is part of a larger pattern of Trump Administration judicial nominees failing to disclose critical information in their background. Indeed, several nominees have failed to disclose writings, the substance of which should be disqualifying by any reasonable standards.

In the last two years, nominees Brett Talley, John K, Bush, Jeff Mateer, Thomas Farr, Ryan Bounds, and Gordon Giampietro have all failed to disclose personal writings in their application materials. To allow this practice to continue would undermine the credibility of the federal judiciary for generations to come.