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National NOW Times >> Fall 2004 >> Article

NOW Keeps a Close Watch on Bush Court Appointees

by Julia Appel, National Action Center Staff Member

While Supreme Court appointments make front-page headlines, we must also continue to watch federal appellate court appointments. George W. Bush is stacking the federal courts with right-wing ideologues, as did Republican predecessors Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Recently, Bush and fellow Republicans hit the 200 mark of confirmed lifetime appointments to lower courts during his term. When it comes time to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and other higher courts, ultra-conservative judges have swelled the applicant pool. Causing further detriment to the appellate process, the U.S. Supreme Court decides fewer than 100 cases per term, so the Circuit Court of Appeal which hears about 28,000 annually is a last resort for most litigants. Bush bypassed the confirmation process during the Senate's winter recess and appointed two judges NOW actively opposed and Democrats strove to block—William H. Pryor, Jr. and Charles W. Pickering, Sr.

Pickering (appointed to 5th Circuit Court of Appeals) is known as a stalwart opponent of women’s rights, especially the Equal Rights Amendment. He also intervened to shorten by five years the sentence of a man convicted of burning a cross on an interracial couple’s front lawn in Mississippi.

Pryor (appointed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals) relies on ultra-conservative values when deciding on reproductive rights, voting rights, affirmative action, gay and lesbian rights and separation of church and state.

"I will never forget January 22, 1973, the day seven members of our highest court ripped the Constitution and ripped out the life of millions of unborn children," Pryor told The Washington Post regarding Roe v. Wade.

Senate Democrats and activists opposed to the Bush agenda enjoyed some success in the past year. Bush nominee Miguel Estrada withdrew his name from consideration for appointment to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, in the face of a sustained filibuster by Democrats. Thousands of letters from NOW activists encouraged women’s rights supporters in the Senate to continue filibustering this ultra-right-wing nominee.

More recently, seven nominees have been filibustered by Democrats in the Senate and have suffered multiple failed votes.

Following are the top eleven Circuit Court nominees NOW opposes currently, including the seven being filibustered:

Henry Saad: Nominated to 6th Circuit Court of Appeals; currently being filibustered. Saad’s rulings and dissents slant against workers’ rights in cases involving sexual harassment, retaliation against whistle-blowers and workplace injury. Saad, a Michigan resident and a member of the ultra-conservative Federalist Society, was nominated over protest by both of his home-state senators.

Thomas Griffith: Nominated to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; no filibuster before the recess. Griffith demonstrates an unabashed opposition to significant portions of Title IX, the law guaranteeing equal educational opportunities for women and girls, speaking out against permitting the option (which is selected by many schools) of funding athletics in proportion to the gender representation of the student body. He compares himself with Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., a long-time opponent of reproductive rights and same-sex marriage. With his work in the ultra-conservative Federalist Society, Griffith espouses strong preference for states' rights in regard to enforcement of civil rights and environmental law. In writings, Griffith often roots legal rights in Christian religious explanation.

Claude Allen: Nominated to 4th Circuit Court of Appeals; no filibuster yet. This Virginian was nominated to a position traditionally reserved for a Maryland resident, and is opposed by both Maryland senators. Allen argues that abstinence-based education is the best way to prevent pregnancy, AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases. He opposed efforts of many health groups to expand health coverage to children, calling it an expansion of welfare. He has never served as a judge, has no more than eight years of trial experience, and is reportedly known for threatening opponents in the courtroom.

Brett Kavanaugh: Nominated to District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Kavanaugh has no judicial experience. He served as associate counsel on Kenneth Starr’s case for impeachment against former President Bill Clinton and worked on the investigations of Vince Foster’s suicide. While a fierce critic of executive privilege in Clinton's case, since appointed Associate White House Counsel and Assistant to the President by the current Bush Administration, Kavanaugh now champions executive privilege.

Carolyn Kuhl: Re-nominated to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after being defeated in the judiciary committee; currently being filibustered. Kuhl holds the most conservative record among Bush’s judicial nominees. She actively sought Roe v. Wade reversal, including authoring a government brief advocating state abortion bans. She argued to limit sexual harassment definitions, reinstate tax-exempt status to schools that racially discriminate and undermine unions and the rights of whistleblowers.

Pricilla Owen: Re-nominated to 5th Circuit Court of Appeals after being defeated in the judiciary committee; currently being filibustered. She ignored the law by attempting to limit minors’ access to a lawful judicial bypass procedure when seeking an abortion, and consistently voted to dismiss suits brought by workers for discrimination and unfair employment practices. Owen's limited court experience includes representing oil and gas corporations almost exclusively. As a judge she frequently votes to throw out jury verdicts against corporations. Aided by Karl Rove in her 1994 judicial campaign, Owen accepted campaign donations from corporate parties appearing before her in court, including Enron and Halliburton.

Janice Rogers Brown: Nominated to Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; currently being filibustered. She vigorously opposes affirmative action and reproductive rights, including the judicial bypass option to parental notification. Brown called the New Deal unconstitutional and called federal government "the opiate of the masses [and drug for] multinational corporations, single moms, and militant senior citizens." Twice Brown was found not competent for a seat on California's Supreme Court, and not a single American Bar Association member rated her well-qualified in the judicial evaluation process.

Richard Allen Griffin: Nominated to 6th Circuit Court of Appeals; currently being filibustered. Griffin dismissed the sex discrimination claim of a pregnant custodian who was suspended after her employer decided she was ineligible for the "favored work" program, which would have allowed her to continue work within the parameters of medical restrictions placed upon her. He has ruled consistently against employees in discrimination cases involving injury, religion, race and disability. In 1999, Griffin wanted to not only strip disabled prisoners in Michigan of their civil rights, but disabled prisoners from other states as well.

William Haynes: Nominated to 4th Circuit Court of Appeals; no filibuster yet. Haynes brings no courtroom experience or connection to 4th Circuit states to qualify him for this seat. As Defense Department General Counsel, he is credited with developing the current Bush Administration policy denying Geneva Convention protections to those captured in battle, including denial of counsel, due process and representation in civil courts to both American and foreign detainees suspected of being "enemy combatants."

William G. Myers III: Nominated to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; currently being filibustered. Myers holds strong ties to the cattle ranching and mining industries, working on their behalf as a lobbyist from 1993 to 2001. He overturned judgments protecting Native American sacred lands. Myers disobeyed conflict of interest pledges, continuing to meet during his term as Interior Department Solicitor with former industry clients and law firm cronies to discuss matters of environmental regulation.

David W. McKeague: Nominated to 6th Circuit Court of Appeals; currently being filibustered. McKeague is known for siding with governmental, industrial and corporate parties. He is notorious for his ill temper in the courtroom, as well as for entering summary judgments against the plaintiff in cases involving workers' rights, civil rights, and prisoner rights—even asserting in one case that the alleged sexual abuse of female prisoners was consensual.

Sources:
NOW Action Alerts
National Women’s Law Center
NARAL Pro-Choice America
Alliance for Justice
Independent Judiciary
Americans for Democratic Action
National Employment Lawyers Assoc.

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