The opposition to Owen's candidacy
reaches deep into the heart of Texas. A statewide
coalition of consumer and pro-choice groups there
has worked feverishly to educate the public on her
record, notes coordinator Craig McDonald, executive
director of Texans for Public Justice, a public-interest
group based in Austin.
Now, with Owen's confirmation all
but inevitable, her opponents are waxing philosophical.
"Some people say our strategy is wrongheaded
because if we succeed, she stays on the state supreme
court," says McDonald. "We lose both ways."
Oddly enough, when Bush was governor, his appointments
to the Texas Supreme Court included a number of moderates,
notes lawyer Harris. Back then, "he wasn't under
pressure to placate a far-right base."
Similarly, Bush had a brief flirtation
with bipartisanship early in
when he included two African-American Democrats--
Roger Gregory and
Barrington Parker, Jr.-- in his first slate of nominees
to the federal bench. Gregory-- the first black appeals
judge in the Fourth Circuit-- was an interim
appointment made by Clinton at the end of his term;
Parker had been a judge for the Southern District
of New York since 1994. Both were easily confirmed
even though Republicans on the Senate judiciary Committee
had failed to act on Gregory's nomination when Clinton
was in office. Goldman views the two nominations as
"a peace offering meant to make hard-right nominees
more palatable." But it didn't quell the oppo
sition and isn't likely to be tried again.
By the same token, Bush wasted no
time in ousting the American Bar Association's Standing
Committee on the Federal Judiciary from the nomination
process as soon as he took office. Since 1953, the
committee has evaluated potential nominees for integrity,
competence and temperament after a lengthy examination
of their work and interviews with colleagues. The
nominees receive a rating of well qualified, qualified,
or not qualified. Formerly, that process took place
in consultation with the White House before the nomination
was announced; now it's done after the fact as a service
to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Bush explained his action as an end
to special treatment for a special interest group.
"The issue at hand," wrote his right hand
Gonzales, is "whether the ABA alone-- out of
the literally dozens of groups and many individuals
who have a strong interest in the composition of the
federal courts-- should receive advance notice of
the identities of potential nominees in order to render
pre-nomination opinions on their fitness for judicial
That paean to evenhandedness, from
a letter to then-ABA president Martha W, Barnett,
ignores that the ABA is the largest legal organization
in the country and that its scrutiny involves a peer-review
process. While the ABA as a group has taken liberal
positions in favor of abortion rights and a moratorium
on the death penalty, the committee that evaluates
judicial candidates puts political considerations
aside, says the committee's current chair Carol E.
Dinkins, who served in the Reagan justice department
and was a Bush appointee during his tenure as governor.
"Ideology is not part of the evaluation at all--
that has always been the case," says Dinkins.
Incidentally, Owen was found to be well qualified.