Gun Violence Prevention

Stop the NRA’s Favorite Lawyer From Becoming a Federal Judge

In the wake of the deadly school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018, people across the country have risen up to demand that Congress stand up to the NRA on gun safety. The students of Parkland and other youth leaders have unapologetically demanded that their Members of Congress (MoCs) protect them from the uniquely American epidemic of mass shootings.

Despite this movement, Republican Senators are prepared to confirm the NRA’s favorite lawyer to a lifetime district court judgeship. Trump nominated Howard C. Nielson to a cushy lifetime seat on the United States District Court for the District of Utah. Nielson is one of the NRA’s go-to attorneys, who has made a career out of regularly representing the NRA and fighting against common-sense gun safety measures.

This is a major opportunity for Senators to fight back against the gun lobby’s influence, at a crucial time in history. The NRA spent an unprecedented amount of money—surpassing its own previous spending records—in support of Donald Trump’s campaign. Now, Trump is trying to give them their money’s worth. Trump told the NRA, “You came through for me, I am going to come through for you.”

When Trump nominated Nielson, it was a gift back to the NRA.

Luckily, the Senate—not Trump—gets to decide whether Howard Nielson will be confirmed as a federal judge.

Call your Senators and ask them to publicly commit to voting against Howard Nielson’s nomination.


Howard Nielson is the NRA’s favorite lawyer, and has the radical ideological record to match.

Nielson has routinely positioned himself on the far-right fringe of the gun debate. He has argued that state bans on people under 21 purchasing handguns or publicly carrying firearms are unconstitutional, and that cities should not be able to ban semiautomatic rifles and large-capacity magazines.

He also supported drastically expanding the scope of the Second Amendment. While in a key position within George W. Bush’s Justice Department, Nielson authored a legal memo in 2004 that argued for an unprecedented, expansive interpretation of the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court later adopted this framework in a ruling that now makes it considerably harder for states to take measures to prevent gun violence within their borders, and Nielson helped to lay the groundwork for this change.

There are even more reasons to oppose Nielson’s nomination to the court.

As if Nielson’s work for the gun lobby weren’t enough, there are many more reasons to be horrified by the thought of him serving as a federal judge for life:

  • Nielson defended the anti-LGBTQ Proposition 8 in California by arguing that the federal judge hearing the case should be disqualified for being gay.
  • He also worked under Steven Bradbury (the architect of the Bush-era torture regime and a recently-confirmed Trump administration lawyer) during the George W. Bush administration, and assisted Bradbury in crafting the legal rationale to justify torture of detainees.
  • In 2002, Nielson participated in the illegal politicization of the hiring process for civil servants at the Justice Department by screening out left-leaning candidates for openings.
  • In 2014, Nielson represented congressional Republicans who sued the EPA to stop its plan to reduce carbon pollution.
  • He has aligned himself with torture apologists, opponents of the Affordable Care Act, and anti-choice activists.

Howard Nielson is a radical choice for the judiciary, and the Senate must stop his confirmation.

Track more of Trump’s nominees here. Indivisible East Bay is closely following this fight and is updating this tracker live with updates. Take a look at their resources for more information here. Reach out to them for more information at


Call Your Senator Now

Your Senators can block Nielson’s nomination—call today. Here is a sample call script you can use:

Caller: Hi, my name is [name] and I’m a constituent calling from [part of state]. I’m calling to ask about the nomination of Howard Nielson as a district court judge for the District of Utah. Has [senator] determined whether [he/she] will support or oppose the Nielson nomination?

Option 1: If the senator is undecided or is planning to confirm Nielson

Staffer: Senator [name] has not fully decided, but most likely will vote to confirm Nielson.

Caller: That’s the wrong choice. Nielson is the NRA’s favorite lawyer for his work to undermine sensible gun violence prevention laws. In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, FL we should not be rewarding the NRA by handing their champions lifetime judgeship appointments.

Staffer: I’ll relay your concerns to the senator.

Caller: Yes, please do—I’ll be watching the senator’s vote very closely.

Option 2: If the senator will be opposing Nielson’s nomination

Staffer: Senator [name] is currently planning to oppose Mr. Nielson’s nomination.

Caller: I’m glad to hear it. Nielson’s record on undermining gun violence prevention laws makes him the NRA’s favorite lawyer, and now is no time to be rewarding them with judges who will spend a lifetime weakening gun laws. I’d like to see Senator [name] publicly urge [his/her] colleagues to also oppose Nielson’s nomination.

Staffer: I’ll relay your thoughts to the senator.

Caller: Yes, please do—I’ll be watching the senator’s statements and vote very closely.



Preview Image by Lorie Shaull