The Bush Steamroller on Judges: Good News, Bad News

Democrats Make Principled Stand on Estrada; Feinstein Casts Disappointing Committee Vote for States' Rights Extremist Sutton

While Senate Democrats continued a principled stand against a full Senate vote on appeals court nominee Miguel Estrada as long as he and the administration continue to stonewall senators’ requests for information needed to evaluate his approach to judging, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-8 today to send another appeals court nominee, states’ rights extremist Jeffrey Sutton, to the Senate floor.

“The good news is that Senate Democrats are taking a strong stand to protect the Senate’s constitutional advise and consent role,” said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. “Without a strong stand now there would be no incentive for the White House or Senate Republican leadership to stop their partisan steamroller and engage in bipartisan consultation and compromise.”

“What we already know about Estrada’s record is deeply troubling,” said Neas. “If the administration is able to push him onto the appeals court without senators even getting answers to important questions, it would open the floodgates to the complete ideological domination of the federal judiciary and the loss of Americans’ rights, freedoms, and legal protections. This is a crucial moment for the courts and the Constitution.”

Neas said it was also good news that there was no Judiciary Committee vote today on appeals court nominees Deborah Cook and John Roberts, two controversial appeals court nominees who Sen. Orrin Hatch scheduled to share a hearing with Sutton, virtually guaranteeing that they would receive little scrutiny.

“The bad news is that Sen. Dianne Feinstein cast an extremely disappointing vote in the Judiciary Committee on behalf of Jeffrey Sutton,” Neas said. “Not only is Sutton one of the nation’s most aggressive advocates for an extreme states’ rights approach to the Constitution, but at his confirmation hearing he was misleading and disingenuous at best in trying to downplay concerns that his record has raised.”

Sutton’s states’ rights extremism – particularly his aggressive efforts to destroy the Americans with Disabilities Act – has generated opposition to his confirmation from literally hundreds of national, state, and local organizations concerned about the impact of his judicial philosophy on civil rights, women’s rights, environmental protection, gun control, and more. As a People For the American Way analysis of Sutton’s confirmation hearing notes, “Sutton’s testimony failed to dispel, and indeed reinforced, the troubling concerns that have led so many to oppose his confirmation.”

“It is appropriate and essential for senators to insist that nominees for powerful lifetime positions on the federal appeals courts demonstrate a commitment to the rights, liberties, and legal protections Americans count on,” said Neas. “Neither Miguel Estrada nor Jeffrey Sutton has met that standard.”

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