Letter in Opposition to Ryan Bounds Nomination to Ninth Circuit

Ahead of Ryan Bounds’s hearing before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on May 9th, we sent the following message to Senators Grassley and Feinstein.

RE: Opposition to Ryan Bounds Nomination to Ninth Circuit

Dear Senators Grassley and Feinstein:

Because we can never know what is in a person’s mind, we must rely on their deliberate actions to reveal their true beliefs. Ninth Circuit nominee Ryan Bounds’ calculated actions show that he is firmly clinging to deep-rooted prejudices that make him unfit to serve as an adjudicator of justice.

Ryan Bounds has not earned redemption for his prejudicial actions because he has not reformed his thinking. If Ryan Bounds had changed his thought, he would have shown curiosity about how he has harmed the communities he claims to care for, and apologized unequivocally for that harm. Mr. Bounds didn’t. Rather, Mr. Bounds’ actions in response to the uncovering of his hateful college publications were uncovered by the Alliance for Justice Fn.1—tokenizing marginalized people, dismissing and minimizing his egregious rhetoric, and exaggerating his pro bono affiliations— prove his true regret: publicly recording his abhorrent views before he was savvy enough to recognize the political consequences of such disclosure.

The most obvious evidence of Ryan Bounds’ deep-rooted prejudice is his blatant tokenizing of people of color and other marginalized people by asking them to write letters to prove that he is innocent by association. Mr. Bounds’ supporters conflate discrete experiences with gross generalizations, and erroneously assume that discrimination and racism only occur in individual interactions. Take, for example, the letter written by Mr. Bounds’ African-American friend from college, Kristina Gill. Fn. 2. In this letter, Ms. Gill states “I never saw bias, discrimination, disdain or dislike carried out in his behavior toward others nor in his decision-making.” Or the letter written by Courtney Angeli and David Lat Fn. 3 who say “We know he harbors no such insensitivity or hostility — and we speak as members of the supposedly maligned groups.” How do they know this? We cannot give this testimony much weight, especially considering the speakers’ lack of connection to Portland’s most marginalized communities. Mr. Bounds’ friends’ letters are also problematic because he uses them to trivialize his unacceptable articles. The letter from Ms. Angeli and Mr. Lat refers to such articles as “hyperbolic collegiate musings.” Ms. Gill refers to Mr. Bounds’ writings simply as “conservative.”

In addition, Ryan Bounds’ initial response to the exposure of his disturbing writings was one of dismissiveness and minimization. The subject line of Mr. Bounds’ initial response Fn 4 to the Alliance for Justice Report in an email to his fellow committee members of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee of the Multnomah Bar Association reveals the source of his true remorse: “apologies in advance for some embarrassing news.” Here, Mr. Bounds apologizes for the embarrassment of the news itself, not for the matter of which and the people to whom he should be apologizing. And the first line of his email reads: “Being nominated for judicial office is an honor, but it has its downsides-including having the ill-considered, tone-deaf, and mortifyingly insensitive pronouncements of one’s youth unearthed and scrutinized.” Mr. Bounds goes on to call the report an “unpleasant reminder of my errors of nearly a quarter-century ago.” Are we to believe that Mr. Bounds forgot that he harbored racist, misogynistic views? And if so, how are we to believe that he has actually changed those views?

In Ryan Bounds’ subsequent resignation letter, Fn. 5 provided at the request of the MBA Committee, he continues to downplay his egregious rhetoric, calling it “poorly worded and ill-conceived pronouncements of a youth.” He goes on to describe in great detail the MBA Committee’s work, taking credit for projects that span well beyond his participation. In addition to being inaccurate, Mr. Bounds’ MBA Committee membership is not proof that he has changed. It so happens that Mr. Bounds is also a member of the extremely conservative Federalist Society which supports discrimination and white nationalists. For some examples of this group’s discriminatory views, see their article, “The ABA’s Garbled View of Free Speech” Fn. 6 and this Hatewatch article Fn. 7 on the Federalist Society’s debate on the Birthright Citizenship for Children of Illegal Immigrants. How are we to believe that Mr. Bounds’ Federalist Society membership has not influenced his MBA Committee participation?

The Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild believes justice can only be attained when people of color and all other oppressed communities are more than mere afterthoughts. We expect our highest courts to administer justice equitably. Ryan Bounds would like us to believe that racism, sexual assault, anti-labor, and queer violence are excusable so long as one portrays them while they are young and naïve. He would like us to believe that a few people of color speak for all people of color. He would like us to believe that he hasn’t caused harm. We can’t do this without abandoning our values of justice and equity. We firmly oppose Ryan Bounds’ nomination to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sincerely,

The Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild

1 AFJ Snap Shot: Ryan Bounds

2 In support of Ryan Bounds: Letter to the editor

3 Ryan Bounds passes muster with those he supposedly maligned: Guest opinion

4 Bounds Email to MBA

5 Bounds Resignation from MBA ED&I

6 The ABA’s Garbled View of Free Speech

7 Hatewatch: INVITED WHITE NATIONALIST TO SPEAK TO FEDERALIST SOCIETY FRIDAY

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