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Fritz Feds

Friday, May 09, 2003

Senate Republicans may use the Nuclear Option to break the judicial nomination deadlock. Byron York also describes possibilities for breaking the deadlock today in the National Review Online. Although many Bush nominees have already been approved, the current battle focuses on Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen.

Who are these nominees that are so offensive to the Dems in Congress?

Miguel Estrada has been repeatedly referred to as an "American success story." He's an immigrant from Honduras. He graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree from Columbia College and received his law degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard. A mere ten years after arriving in this country as a 17 year old immigrant who didn't speak English, he was clerking for Justice Kennedy. He also worked in the Solicitor General's Office under President Clinton.

Why is this phenomenally succesful member of a minority group so feared by the Democrats? Estrada is criticised for supporting capital punishment, opposing abortion, and *gasp* for being a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm that represented President Bush in Bush v. Gore. The National Organization for Women also reports that he's been labeled as an ideologue (The NOW crowd, of course, could hardly be labeled as such!) whose personal views would spill into rulings. (Not to be cynical, but there may be a reason opinions on controversial cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, for example, are split on ideological lines. Why are Kennedy and O'Connor known as swing votes if personal views never affect judicial decisions? Are we all really so naive?)

But even liberals and democrats support Estrada. Robert Litt, Associate Deputy Attorney General in the Criminal Justice Division of the Clinton DOJ says "I have never felt that the arguments he made were in any way outside the scope of legitimate legal analysis." He stated that Estrada is eminently qualified to serve on the Court of Appeals, and hopes for his confirmation. Ronald Klain, who was Vice President Gore’s chief of staff and has known Mr. Estrada since Harvard, said in The Washington Post on 5/23/01 that Estrada would be able to "faithfully follow the law." Mr. Klain wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee stating that he had no doubt Estrada would "faithfully apply the precedents of his court, and the Supreme Court, without regard to his personal views or political perspectives."

The American Bar Association, bastion of right wing conservatism, has given Estrada a rating of "well qualified," the highest possible rating.

And of course, he's supported by Latino organizations (this despite his supposed support for "anti-loitering" laws that disproportionately single out" Latinos.) The Latino Coalition believes that he has "demonstrated a commitment to upholding the integrity of the law." Other Latino organizations, such as the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Hispanic Business Roundtable and the Hispanic National Bar Association also enthusiastically support Estrada.

Oh, and NOW is careful to point out in its "Stop the Court Packing" alert that Estrada is a member of the Federalist Society. Well, that's just the last straw.

Priscilla Owen's main failing appears to be the fact that she's pro-life. A parade of liberal, left wing organizations don't like Justice Owen, currently serving on the Texas Supreme Court. ">NOW thinks she shouldn't be approved because of her staunch opposition to abortion. (It is necessary to realize that only abortion supporters should be federal judges, according to the liberal left.) In fact, she supports the elimination of buffer zones around abortion clinics! (That pesky First Amendment...) And worst of all, she voted against providing a judicial bypass to teenage girls trying to abort their babies without their parents' knowledge. And once again, NOW emphasizes, she's a Federalist: "Member of the board of the Houston Chapter of the Federalist Society, an ultra-conservative legal organization." Ultra-conservative! I'm sure some of our members would be surprised. Heck, I'm surprised. Gee, other than her impermissible pro-life views and the fact that she's a Federalist, there really isn't that much out there.

Oh, Enron gave her campaign a whopping $8,600 in 1994 (if anything, just an argument against state judges being elected rather than appointed). Since 1993 (i.e. in the last ten years) Enron has, according to NOW, contributed $134,058 to Owen and other members of the Court. And apparently the fact that since 1993 the Texas Supreme Court (which has nine justices) has found in favor of Enron five out of six times it has appeared before that Court is a prime reason Owen shouldn't be appointed to the Fifth Circuit. (Now, I'll admit I haven't read through all of those cases, but do we really have to assume that absolutely every time Enron went to court that they deserved to lose? Was Owen required to step up and demand that the Court find for Enron's adversary, regardless of the merits of the case?) Oh, and by the way, Justice Owen didn't even participate in all of those cases.

But she can't be all that bad. A former President of Legal Aid of Central Texas, Hector De Leon, believes she has a commitment to providing legal services to the poor and that she will bring empathy for those who can't afford legal services to the Fifth Circuit. A former law clerk called her "a role model for...women attorneys in Texas." Also, the report put out by the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary, "Justice Priscilla Owens: Myth vs. Reality" is worth taking a look at.


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