Stealth Judicial Nominee Miguel Estrada Barely Advances While Keeping Senate, Public In the Dark

Vigorous Debate, Close Vote on Senate Floor Likely

In a party-line vote, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted today to recommend Senate approval of Miguel Estrada to a lifetime seat on the federal appeals court even though Senators and the public know very little about Estrada’s approach to judging – and what they do know is troubling.

“Putting Miguel Estrada on the bench without learning how he will approach that job violates senators’ constitutional duty to the American people,” said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas today. “We applaud the strong stand taken by all the Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee. Today’s discussion and vote help ensure a vigorous debate on the Senate floor and enhance significantly the prospect that Estrada’s confirmation will be defeated, whether by 51 or 41 senators.”

“Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have signaled that they are ready to rubber stamp President Bush’s judicial nominees, no matter how extreme or how unwilling to tell the American people how they will approach important constitutional issues as a judge,” Neas said. “If the full Senate goes along, Americans could lose fundamental rights, freedoms, and protections that they have enjoyed for decades. It is time to stand and fight.”

Neas noted that leading Hispanic organizations opposing Estrada’s confirmation – including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund – have been joined in opposition by a diverse coalition of environmental protection, civil rights, women’s rights, and other public interest groups.

Neas said that by pushing Estrada to a vote without a clear understanding of Estrada’s jurisprudential views, Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch was violating his own professed standards. In a 1997 speech to the Federalist Society, the driving force for right-wing activism on the federal judiciary, Hatch argued that in connection with nominees with “limited paper trails,” the Senate should be “more diligent and extensive in its questioning of nominees’ jurisprudential views.”

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