Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2019

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LV nominee to federal bench explains gun rights position in letter to Harry Reid

WASHINGTON — With Sen. Dean Heller opposed to her nomination, Elissa Cadish’s nomination to the federal bench is in jeopardy.

But the Nevada judge is trying to correct the bad initial impression by clarifying to Sen. Harry Reid, who supports her nomination, that when she said in 2008 that she didn’t think there was an individual right to bear arms, she wasn’t expressing a personal opinion — just parsing what she believed to be the meaning of the Second Amendment.

“I want to assure you that I was not giving my personal opinion on this question,” Cadish said, referring to a May 8, 2008 questionnaire in which she answered the question: “Do you believe the individual citizen has a constitutional right to keep and bear arms?” with “I do not believe that there is this constitutional right.”(Sun columnist Jon Ralston obtained a copy of the questionnaireon Thursday.)

In a letter to Reid written March 22, Cadish said: “This response was based on my understanding of the state of federal law at the time."

Seven weeks after she filled out the questionnaire, the Supreme Court slapped down an interpretation of the Second Amendment that directly refuted her interpretation.

The court’s 5-4 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller was unequivocal in saying the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms to every individual — not every individual in a group or a militia, as alternate readings of the amendment suggested.

Two years later, the court would back up the Heller case with a decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago that also upheld an individual’s right to bear arms.

In her letter to Reid, Cadish explained that since the Second Amendment had been clarified, so had her reading of it.

“If asked the same question today, I would say I believe that there is a constitutional right for individuals to keep and bear arms,” Cadish said, adding that she “would faithfully apply the binding precedent on this issue starting with the Heller and McDonald decisions.”

But the person Cadish needs to convince is Heller. Accepted practice in the Senate says that unless both members of a state’s delegation support a judicial appointment, it doesn’t move forward — only in rare cases has the majority party senator forced a nomination through without a minority party senator’s OK.

Ralston first reported Heller's opposition to the Cadish appointment on Tuesday, revealing Heller was uncomfortable with her gun rights stance.

A spokesman for Heller did not immediately return a call Thursday night seeking reaction to Cadish’s letter.

In a statement, Reid said: "I am disappointed to learn that Senator Heller will not support Elissa Cadish to serve as a federal judge in Nevada. By all accounts, Cadish is one of the most highly respected jurists in the state of Nevada and supremely qualified to serve as Nevada's next U.S. District Court judge. The vacancy to which she has been nominated has been designated a judicial emergency. Her nomination cannot proceed without Sen. Heller's support, and starting this process over with a new nominee is likely to leave this vacancy open for many more months. Nevadans will be left with a crippled court system we cannot afford. I very much hope Sen. Heller reconsiders his decision."

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