This letter to the editor from PFAW’s Marge Baker was published in today’s New York Times:
Re “G.O.P. Field Stoking Anger at U.S. Courts” (front page, Oct. 24):
Extreme anti-judiciary measures like those proposed by Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, as well as Mitt Romney’s choice of the ultra-conservative failed Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork to head his legal team, are chilling reminders of the stakes of the 2012 presidential election.
But these are not far-off threats. The G.O.P. has already found a simple and immediate way to wage war on the federal judiciary: by obstructing the confirmation of new judges.
There are about 100 vacancies in federal courts throughout the country, a third of which are in districts so hard pressed that they have been designated “judicial emergencies.”
In spite of this, Senate Republicans have been confirming nominees at a record sluggish pace. The Senate is currently sitting on 23 nominees, virtually all of whom have strong bipartisan support. It simply defies reason that nominees who have received absolutely no opposition from either party are sometimes forced to wait months for a simple up-or-down confirmation vote.
A functioning independent judiciary is at the foundation of our democracy. But the religious right has often been wary of the judiciary’s power to act as a bulwark against efforts to crumble the wall of separation between church and state and to deny rights to women, gay people, religious minorities, workers and consumers. Unable to pass extreme measures like the ones being proposed by presidential candidates, the right has settled instead for quietly kneecapping the courts.
Exec. V.P. for Policy and Program
People for the American Way
Washington, Oct. 24, 2011