Tribute to Marvin Morse, 2020 Murray Blueglass Award

Marvin_7.jpgJudge Marvin Morse has been a genuine and distinguished lifetime Democrat. He has served with honor and distinction as a member and President of the Longboat Key Democratic Club. He has retired from active service this year. We are proud and greatly appreciate his extraordinary participation and service to our Club. He has made a positive and significant difference. Here, in his own words, is his story.

Marvin_6.jpgAt the age of 11, I handed out campaign literature for FDR on election day 1940, where we lived in Larchmont, one of the most Republican communities in all of New York State. I have never looked back, although I was politically castrated, unable to participate publicly in politics, during the 45 years I was subject to the Hatch Act and to the Code of Judicial Conduct.

It was nevertheless clear to me then as it is now that the Democratic Party, for all its defects and disappointments, has been the only elective choice compatible with my personal values. Although like any involved individual, my outlook on life evolved over time, certain concerns have been constant, occasionally, a voice in the Wilderness. As early as high school, I championed gun control, arguing that toy guns be taken off the market to reduce children’s’ potential attraction to the real thing. In college, I supported the World Federalist effort at world peace; in early 1948, I met with former Vice President Henry Wallace as he explored with college students whether to run for the presidential nomination (he did not). In contrast, I spent election night 1948 in the office of the National Democratic chairman.

After law school and after active duty as an Air Force judge advocate during the height of the Cold War, while practicing in Louisville, KY 1956-62, where both Betty and I were Democratic Party precinct captains, I spent at least half my professional time as an attorney for the Kentucky Civil Liberties Union, taking criminal cases from police court to the Supreme Court of the United States.

In 1962, I joined the federal government as a career appointment, as a civilian lawyer serving, consecutively, in the Department of the Navy, Office of the Secretary of Defense, General Services Administration (Assistant General Counsel), Postal Service (AGC), Administrative Law Judge, Federal Power Commission, Postal Rate Commission, Civil Aeronautics Board, Civil Service Commission/Office of Personnel Management, Small Business Administration, Department of Justice, during which I was also National Director of the ALJ program (CSC/OPM) (1980-82) and Assistant Administrator, SBA (1984-87),and the Board of Immigration Appeals (1998-2002).

As I wrote in the letter published in the Sarasota Herald Tribune this July 10, during my federal government service, Republican administrations were aware of my Democratic voter registration status at moments of appointment and retention, including continuing on the Board of Immigration Appeals the first year of the GW Bush presidency until my retirement in March 2002. (Nevertheless, despite efforts by others on my behalf, President Reagan’s counsel had told me I was politically unacceptable for a particular judicial selection).

With that background, it is obviously impossible for me to objectively assess the horror that is the Trump Administration. There are not enough pejorative adjectives to characterize Donald Trump. Never have we had such a congenital liar, hypocrite, ignorant, incurious, selfish, partisan, ignoramus in the White House. It is a cliche, but accurate, to say he survives, to date, because of the failure by congressional Republicans to hold him to account, and, worse, to support, encourage, and claim victory for his initiatives. As of this moment, it is unfortunately not an overstatement that unless the Democrats win at least one house of Congress in 2018, this democracy may fail. Otherwise, this most corrupt, incompetent presidency will continue to devastate us. Our generation was taught thatTea Pot Dome was the essence of corruption. That experience was as nothing compared to the exploits of the Trump regime.

It is not just that this Administration and Republicans in Congress are repudiating virtually every progressive improvement in this country since the early 20th Century. It is that the assault on truth, decency, and precedent, is daily and uncensured by Republicans at every level federal state, and local. Certainly not in the lifetimes of any of us, has the choice been clearer, the divide between the parties wider or deeper than it is year. That a Quinnipiac College poll showed that 55% of Republicans support Trump’s inhumane family separation policy at the border is a frightful cause for alarm.

Virtually anything that Donald Trump touches turns to rot. To infect the Supreme Court with appointment off a Justice who appears to have lied under oath to the Senate on a prior confirmation hearing will plague the justice system indefinitely. Even closer to home. Seizing an opportunity by distorting a recent Supreme Court decision, Trump has directed elimination of the merit selection system for ALJ selection that has been in place since 1946 (and which I administrated from 1980-82). He intends to replace the only judicial merit deletion system in the nation with a process that obliges departments and agencies only to assure that new appointees are lawyers. Under existing law and regulation, judicial independence is further demonstrated by their status in the competitive civil service. Unique among all federal government attorneys, only ALJs are guaranteed a right to a hearing on the record prior to removal; all other federal attorneys are at-will employees, as would ALJs if the Trump action stands.

The Trump/Brannon initiative to delegitimize and dismantle the federal government is well under way. It may be that it can only be stopped at the ballot box.

Judge Marvin Morse
September, 2018

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