NATIONAL | summer 2003
A fight to save the courts.
Since winning control of the U.S. Senate in the 2002 elections, the Bush administration has accelerated its efforts to hand
lifetime judicial appointments to ultra-conservatives.
President Bush's nominees and appointments to the Federal Courts of Appeal comprise a Who's Who of right-wing legal thinkers with histories of activism against abortion, religious freedom, women's and civil rights, and rights for workers and the disabled. Check out these resumes:
Carolyn Kuhl, a 9th U.S. Circuit nominee, has argued in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade, and in support of tax-exemption for Bob Jones University, which prohibited inter-racial dating.
Jeffrey Sutton, a 6th U.S. Circuit nominee, insists that individuals do not need federal laws to protect them from state discrimination.
Judge dread: Bush's federal court nominees
Photo by Ron Edmonds/AP Photo
Deborah Cook, also nominated to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has consistently supported corporations against their employees. In one example, she ruled against an employer who exposed a worker to a toxic chemical and then lied about it did not have to provide compensation.
William Pryor, Bush’s latest nominee for the 11th Circuit, has called Roe v. Wade, “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.”
Those who oppose these and other Bush nominees aren’t letting them slide by. An impressive coalition of organizations, including People for the American Way, Alliance for Justice, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights,
Sierra Club, ADA Watch, Earth Justice, NAACP LDEF, NOW, AFL-CIO, Feminist Majority, Planned Parenthood, and NARAL Pro-Choice America, is working to educate the public and galvanizing Senate opposition.
In response, Senate Democrats have filibustered long and hard against Miguel Estrada, Bush's nominee for the D.C. Court of Appeals. At press time, they had stave off six Republican-led attempts to force a vote and had begun a filibuster of Pricilla Owen, a nominee for the 5th Circuit whose extreme positions against abortion, civil rights and worker rights
"Fair-minded senators are the last firewall against an administration strategy to pack the courts with extremists beholded to corporate interests and hostile to civil rights and reproductive freedom" says Nan Aron, a director of the Alliance for Justice, a Washington D.C.-based group that works to promote an independant judiciary.
However, Democrats, at time hesitant to oppose nominees on ideological grounds, have allwed votes to go forward on other far-right nominees such as Sutton and Cook.
Since taking office, Bush has put forth nominees for 38 judgeships on the Circuit Courts of Appeal, and 19 have been approved. At press time, another 19 Bush nominees were pending for 24 remaining vacancies.
Republican-appointed majorites already control 8 of the 13 Courts of Appeal; if Bush is able to fill all current vacancies, that number will be 11 of 13. That could be disatrous for women's and civil rights, since the Courts of Appeal are the final word in a vast majority of federal cases (the U.S. Supreme Court hears fewer than 100 cases a year).
Even the New York Times has called upon the Senate to continue using the delaying tactic of filibuster to stave off confirmation of Bush nominees. In an April editorial, the paper urged Senators to "tell extreme conservatives in the Bush administration to stop trying to hijack the federal judiciary."