Ms. Magazine

spring 2003
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this is what a feminist looks like

The Feminist To-Do List by Gloria Steinem
Ms. Poll Feminist Tide Sweeps In as the 21st Century Begins by Lorraine Dusky
Affirmative Action on Trial by Teresa Stern
Women on Death Row by Claudia Dreifus
In the Thick of Life at 70 by Jessica Chornesky

Special Action Alert
Women Take Action Worldwide
Listing: Coalitions and Groups
National Council of Women's Organizations Statement on War with Iraq
NCWO Partial Members List
Why Peace is (More Than Ever) a Feminist Issue
by Grace Paley

Writing of War and Its Consequences
Ghosts of Home by Patricia Sarrafian Ward
Tales from an Ordinary Iranian Girlhood by Marjane Satrapi
Snow in Summer: LA, CA, 1963 by Helen Zelon

Pat Summitt's 800th Victory
Augusta Golf Club's Red Face
National Map of Priest Abuse
Women Warriors
Lesbians with Strollers
Kopp Trial
Trouble in Herat, Afghanistan
Reproductive Rights in Poland
Health Clinics in Guatemala
Congolese Women for Peace
Global Good News Round-Up
The Opposite of a Nuclear Bomb

Lower Breast Cancer Risks by Liz Galst
The Making of an Activist by Gloria Feldt
Nature Conservancy Gains by Rachel Rabkin
Harvard Stumbles on Rape Rules by Lorraine Dusky
The Bush Overhaul of Federal Courts by Stephanie B. Goldberg
My Friend Yeshi by Alice Walker

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The work of Chicago-based writer Stephanie B. Goldberg has appeared in Business Week, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and many other publications. She is a former senior editor of the ABA Journal and writes for a number of ABA magazines.

For a Woman to Get that Federal Court Nomination, Does She Have to be Scalia in a Skirt?

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 his term
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 service."

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.

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Magazine Exclusive

With but one exception, the women whom George W. Bush has nominated to the US Court of Appeals are all judges--a sensible enough qualification. On the other hand, the men include quite a few legal practitioners and professors who have no judicial experience. Why the difference? Read Sexual Politics of the Bench in this month's issue, on stands now.

Copyright Ms. Magazine 2009