WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Senate is poised to vote on the lifetime appointment Steven Menashi to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which covers Connecticut, New York and Vermont. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) adamantly opposes the appointment of Menashi to a seat once held by Supreme Court Justice and civil rights champion Thurgood Marshall.
If appointed, Menashi will be positioned to erode decades of hard-fought victories in securing critical rights and legal protections for a broad segment of Americans. Indeed, naming Menashi to the federal bench will prioritize the interests of the wealthy and the powerful over those of our most vulnerable citizens.
A review of Menashi’s statements and writings demonstrates a long record of his opposition to policies and laws aimed at mitigating inequalities experienced by communities of color, women, and Americans who are LGBTQ. Throughout his adult life, he has embraced deep-seated hostilities that run counter to basic civil rights and fairness.
For example, Menashi has:
- Compared the collection of race data in college admissions to Germany under Adolf Hitler.
- Denounced women’s marches against sexual assault and showed consternation about the fact that colleges implemented disciplinary actions for students who harassed women.
- Opposed abortion rights advocated by campus women despite the fact such rights are codified in Roe v. Wade.
- Argued against the concept of diverse communities, suggesting that ethnically heterogeneous societies fail to achieve political and civic engagement, do not produce effective government institutions, and fail to benefit society as a whole.
- Dismissed the idea of educating young people about the values of multiculturalism.
Our decision to differ with President Trump’s nomination of Menashi for appointment to the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is not solely based on his anti-civil liberties and anti-social justice writings and statements as a young adult. During his career as a lawyer, Menashi has had high-level government jobs that have positioned him to directly influence American public policies that have compromised rights and legal protections for millions. Often, his policy recommendations were rejected by the courts because they were not legally sound.
Most notably, as a senior advisor to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Menashi championed changes in departmental rules and policies that significantly roll back protections for students of color, sexual assault survivors, and victims of fraudulent for-profit college recruitment schemes. He once stated that he was “responsible for providing legal advice on all aspects of the Department’s operations, including litigation, rulemaking, regulation, and enforcement.”
Recently, Menashi, who left the Education Department to join the White House Counsel Office, was the architect of the Education Department’s plan to use a dubious measure (earnings data from the Social Security Administration) to deny student loan debt forgiveness of student loans to 30,000 borrowers who attended the for-profit Corinthian Colleges.
The Obama Administration found that Corinthian, which went out of business without notice, duped thousands of its students (many of whom were low income African Americans and Hispanics) by awarding them degrees that proved worthless and leaving them with thousands of dollars in loan debt. The Obama administration forgave the debt. However, with Menashi’s help, Secretary DeVos reinstated the student loan liability.
Fortunately for the students, a federal judge ruled that the plan Menashi devised violated federal privacy laws. The judge threatened to jail Secretary DeVos if she did not reinstate the Obama loan forgiveness order. She subsequently directed the department to stop using the Social Security earning data metrics to deny loan forgiveness.
Menashi’s influence over public policy did not stop at the Department of Education. As a White House lawyer, he also worked closely with President Trump’s Senior Advisor on immigration, Stephen Miller, to advance harmful immigration policies, including family separation.
Menashi has been unwavering in his embrace of values which are counter to social work principles. Americans expect federal court justices to be fair and impartial in making judicial decisions that often are life-altering for millions of people. If confirmed Menashi, who is 40 years old, will be positioned to erode critical rights and legal protections for decades to come.
NASW opposes his confirmation. Our nation needs U.S. Circuit Court judges who will be fair and unbiased. Menashi, an ultraconservative ideologue, is neither.