Feature

Bush’s Judges

Are they truly extremists?

Republicans paint them as 'œa group of all-American success stories: a sharecropper's daughter, a senator's son, a brilliant female law student,' said USA Today in an editorial. 'œTo their critics, they are judicial fanatics, a gang that threatens to rewrite established law on everything from abortion to the environment to gay rights.' Meet President Bush's most controversial nominees to federal appeals courts—the seven individuals over whom the Senate is currently waging a 'œbitter partisan fight.' Democrats have pledged to filibuster the seven to prevent their confirmation; Republicans are vowing to change Senate rules if that's what it takes to get them seated. Amid all the bluster, though, the nominees themselves have been virtually forgotten. They deserve to be judged 'œas individuals, not as partisan caricatures.'

Fine—let's judge them, said Stuart Taylor Jr. in The National Journal. Start with Janice Rogers Brown of the California Supreme Court. A radical libertarian, she once called Social Security a 'œtriumph of our own socialist revolution' and likened the New Deal to the Bolshevik uprising of 1917. Though she's black, Brown has argued that racial slurs in the workplace are a permissible form of free speech. Priscilla Owen of the Texas Supreme Court is also 'œbeyond the pale,' said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. She once tried to deny a minor access to abortion by twisting Texas law, an act fellow judge Alberto Gonzales—now Bush's attorney general—called 'œan unconscionable act of judicial activism.' Then there's former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor. He's declared that Roe v. Wade 'œripped out the life of millions of unborn children,' and argued that gay rights will lead to the legalization of incest, bestiality, and necrophilia.

Now look at the record again, said Peter Kirsanow in National Review Online. In 'œ10 stellar years on the California Supreme Court,' Brown has written scores of brilliant opinions whose lucidity even liberals have acknowledged. Her gift is for reading the law as it's written, and Democrats cannot cite 'œa single case in which she's overturned existing law.' Owen has also been unfairly tarred, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. First in her Baylor Law School class, she's received the American Bar Association's highest rating, and was recently re-elected by a landslide. As for Pryor, he approved the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube and also prosecuted Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore for publicly displaying the Ten Commandments. Are those the acts of a right-wing 'œextremist”? Democrats are objecting to these well-qualified jurists for one reason: They've already lost the White House and Congress, and know that Bush will soon pick one or more justices for the Supreme Court. The sore losers of the left now view the courts 'œas their last hold on federal power.'

Jonathan Turley

Los Angeles Times

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