Owen Hearing Reinforces Concerns About Judge’s Record

PFAW Report: Appeals Court Nominee fails to resolve Senators’ questions, Hearing confirms record as right-wing judicial activist on Texas Supreme Court

At her July 23 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen had an opportunity to respond to serious concerns that have been raised about her judicial record. But a report released today by People For the American Way shows that Owen gave incomplete or erroneous responses to some questions and raised new concerns about her fitness for a lifetime appointment to the federal appeals court. People For the American Way’s analysis of Owen’s confirmation hearing examines her responses to questions Senators raised about her pro-corporate/anti-consumer opinions, her judicial activism in reproductive rights cases, and ethical issues surrounding the Texas Supreme Court’s former practice of allowing law clerks to receive large bonuses from private law firms while clerking for the court.

"Justice Owen’s testimony raised more questions than it answered," said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. "Justice Owen had a public opportunity to address Senators’ serious concerns and she failed to do so. The record is clear that Owen is a right-wing activist committed to remaking the law according to her own ideology. The Senate Judiciary Committee should reject her confirmation."

For example, the PFAW report analyzes Owen’s claims that she relied on three U.S. Supreme Court rulings in one of her controversial abortion opinions. The report reviews the cases she cited and makes clear that her assertion cannot withstand scrutiny.

The report also rebuts assertions made by Senator Orrin Hatch at Owen’s hearing, and echoed by a number of Owen supporters, that a frequently cited criticism of Owen by then-State Supreme Court Justice Alberto Gonzales in a parental notification case was somehow not referring to Owen’s dissent. This revisionist history – concocted to soothe the administration’s embarrassment at having its current White House counsel try to explain away his criticism of a nominee he is now officially supporting – is refuted by PFAW’s report, which refers to the clear language of Gonzales’ opinion as well as recent news reports in which Gonzales has acknowledged his critique of Owen’s opinion.

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