Ever since U.S. Sen. Dean Heller announced his mysterious opposition to the nomination of District Court Judge Elissa Cadish to the federal bench, rumors have swirled that it had something to do with her opposition to gun rights. Heller’s office has steadfastly refused to comment on the matter, beyond a bland statement about working with Sen. Harry Reid to fill judicial vacancies in Nevada.
Now I’ve obtained a questionnaire Cadish submitted to the Citizens for Responsible Government in 2008 that might be the source of Heller’s objections. In response to the question, “Do you believe the individual citizen has a constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” Cadish writes:
I do not believe that there is this constitutional right. Thus, I believe that reasonable restrictions may be imposed on gun ownership in the interest of public safety. Of course, I will enforce the laws as they exist as a judge.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller 2008 that the Second Amendment to the Constitution does provide an individual right to bear arms in federal jurisdictions. In the 2010 case of McDonald v. Chicago, the court said that individual right applied to states as well.
It’s not entirely clear if Cadish’s answer to this questionnaire is the basis for Heller’s refusal to support her nomination. I asked Heller’s spokesman via e-mail this week if the senator believes he owes his constituents—to say nothing of Cadish—an explanation for his position. That e-mail has not been returned.
Reid, who suggested Cadish to President Obama, has urged Heller to reconsider his position.
Elsewhere in the questionnaire, Cadish answers other conservative hot-button issues with dexterity. Asked her views about eminent domain, Cadish responds that “Under the Constitution, the government can take property for public purposes so long as fair compensation is paid. I believe in enforcing this provision.” (That’s nearly a word-for-word recitation of the words of the Fifth Amendment, which allows for eminent domain.)
Asked about the proper role of government and the courts in regard to protecting “the life of the preborn,” the handicapped and the elderly, Cadish replies, “The role of the courts is to enforce the Constitution and laws as they exist. It is for the Legislature to make any appropriate changes to the law. There are laws in place to protect those groups and imposing civil penalties and well as, in some cases, criminal penalties.”
Of course, the law as it exists (under 1973′s Roe v. Wade decision) is that “preborn” people in the first trimester of pregnancy have no rights to life.
Asked about “administrative traffic stops for purposes such as checking seat belts or ‘papers,’” Cadish writes, “I have not analyzed it under applicable Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, but I do not have a problem with such stops as long as they are used across the board and not an end run around the need for a search warrant for another matter.”
Cadish—who was appointed to the District Court bench in 2007 and won election to the seat in 2008—was rated “unanimously qualified” for the federal bench by the American Bar Association. And while the “senatorial privilege” of suggesting judicial nominees belongs to the senior senator of the same political party as the president, the nomination cannot be sent to the floor unless both senators from the would-be judge’s home state sign off on the choice. That means Heller’s continued opposition would doom Cadish’s nomination.
By the way, the seat to which she has been nominated has been declared a “judicial emergency” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
UPDATE: Cadish, through a court employee, declined to comment on the questionnaire this afternoon. In addition, Heller’s office declined to comment on whether the answer was the reason for his opposition to Cadish’s nomination.